What wouldn’t you sacrifice for the ones you love? What makes family real? Small communities are so beautiful and picturesque…but what’s going on under the surface?
When I create and explore character, current events inspire me and challenge them. Seemingly insurmountable obstacles must be tackled, for the families in my books to be happy and succeed. And isn’t that pretty much a slice of every day life for the rest of us, too? We learn what life and family and love are really about, when we’re faced with the very real possibility of losing everything.
We see who and what we really are, by how we respond to life’s unpredictable curves and twists.
I love flawed families. I write happily-ever-after, but I do it as realistically as possible–which means I hold my characters feet to the fire a bit more than the average writer. My heroine in Three Days on Mimosa Lane, Sam Perry, and her husband Brian have fought their way back from an unimaginable tragedy–Sam witnessed 9/11 first-hand, as a preschool teacher in one of the many schools at the base of the World Trade Center Complex. She’s still wounded by her experience, but she’s still fighting for the life she wants, the way the rest of us must get up each day and struggle to make that day mean more than the last. Her struggles and her determination to overcome them are inspiring. Her marriage seems strong, if strained, and she’d do anything to become the kind of mother her children deserve. Anything?, I find myself asking…
How far is Sam really willing to go? As she and Brian face the truth about what their next step together needs to be, will they step up or back away?
Are any of us really ready to win the freedom we’ve always wanted–when it will mean putting everything we’ve thought we needed on the line? Are we ready to see what loving ourselves and our families with all of our hearts can really look and feel like?
Freedom from past loss and mistakes and fear. Freedom from being chained to confusion and protecting ourselves and failing even when we’re “succeeding.” Freedom from what we are, despite ourselves, so we can claim what we were always meant to be. What would that freedom feel and look and be like?
The school shooting in Three Days on Mimosa Lane is Sam’s come-to-Jesus moment. I designed it and wrote it long before Sandy Hook, because I needed to show Sam both how strong she’s become in the last 12 years since 9/11, and how weak she still is. In a moment of crisis, she’s the hero who can act rationally and save the day (because she’s lived through an unthinkable once before). But once the dusk clears, she can’t pretend she’d going to be okay again (like her husband and friends console themselves and her that they all still can be)–because she’s lived through the emotional backlash to come once before, and she knows just how impossible it can be to live with.
Being “real” about what Sam’s going through after the shooting isn’t a popular choice at first, with many of her friends and with family. But it becomes the healing and the heroic choice. Brian and her boys and so many others in her community learn to face the difficult path grieving can become, by watching her. Triumphing over her own fears, once and for all, helps this teacher become a role model for many, because she’s finally ready to deal with the frailty and unpredictability of life and happiness…and still claim her right to be hopeful about her future. Still, she and Brian may fail as a couple, because she’s stopped fighting to be “ok.”" She’s finally doing the very hard work of healing, but Brian’s not ready to face the reality of everything that’s happened to them. She needs her “hero” back, no matter how flawed he might be, and he needs the perfect family and life he’d thought they’d built.
Real family, to me, is a journey. It’s a lifetime that leaves long, curling shadows.
True family is belonging to people who can make your heart sing or terrify you to death, because these people become your very soul and what would you do without them? Family, if you give yourself wholly to the ones you love, is your weakest and your strongest self. Family is the battleground for every fear and doubt and hope and nightmare inside you. Family, in the end, becomes what you believe you can be–all the good and the bad. And if within the most intimate relationships of your life you can’t be who you authentically are, then you’re shortchanging everything you could believe and dream and hope into being.
Family…what’s it all about to you?
Tags: Anna DeStefano, anna’s world, creativity & inspiration, Families, family, family drama, family saga, fighters, Grief Recovery, grief support, Ground Zero, heroes, hope, inspiration, Mimosa Lane, Montlake Romance, poetry, promise, PTSD, relationships, Robert Frost, Seasons of the Heart Series, Three Days on Mimosa Lane, Women’s Fiction