At the ripe old age of five, I was a flower girl at my cousin’s wedding. I even have a fading photo to prove it. As you can see I wore white gloves, and that dress was made of baby pink silk organdy. I had a white wicker basket filled with flower petals, and right before the ceremony the other flower girl, the groom’s cousin, dropped her basket and all her petals were lost.
So they had to “borrow” petals from my basket. And I remember Aunt Annie telling me right before I was sent down the aisle that I needed to dole out my petals very carefully so they would last all the way to the altar. After all, the bride needed to walk on rose petals.
Apparently I took this admonition quite seriously, because I picked each petal out of the basket singly before dropping it to the white runner in the church. It took me some time to make it all the way to the altar, and the bride had to wait. But my flower petals lasted.
The family tells this story whenever we get together. There are many others stories to go with it that have almost assumed myth-like stature because they have been repeated so many times. I hated this when I was a teen, but now that I’m a member of the older generation, I have embraced my family storytelling role with both arms. I have gleefully embarrassed my share of young ‘uns.
Every family has stories like this. But when you live in a small town, sometimes these family stories also become community stories that can trap a person in the past. This is exactly what happens to the hero of my latest book, Last Chance Christmas. When Stone Rhodes was eighteen he married Sharon McKee under some rather interesting circumstances. The folks in Last Chance just kept telling the story of Stone and Sharon’s marriage over and over again, until it becomes part of the small town’s lore. That might not be so bad, but, sadly, Stone loses Sharon in a car accident after only fifteen years of marriage.
In Last Chance Christmas we find Stone six years after the death of his wife. He’s the chief of police struggling to raise two daughters– a teenager named Lizzy and a precocious seven-year-old, named Haley, who has an imaginary guardian angel. He’s hanging on to the memory of his late wife. And at the same time, his family and community are not helping him let go. Over the years they’ve substituted the myth of a storybook marriage for the truth, and the truth is so painful that Stone has hidden all the photos of his late wife and locked down his emotions. He has even refused to let his daughters put up holiday decorations.
Enter photojournalist Lark Chaikin, who arrives in town intent on digging up the truth about another community myth, this one involving an unsolved murder that took place forty years before. The mayor wants Lark booted out of town, but Stone is sworn to uncover the truth. Pretty soon Lark is tearing down all the myths and helping Stone’s daughters put up holly and tinsel. But can Lark and an imaginary angel also heal Stone’s broken heart?
Readers who want to learn the source of the Sharon and Stone “myth” might also want to read my e-story, entitled Last Chance Bride. The story turns back the clock to 1990 when Stone and Sharon are high school sweethearts. It’s Watermelon Festival time in Last Chance, and Sharon is the Watermelon Queen. In a few weeks she and Stone will be leaving to attend college in Columbia. But then Stone changes his mind, and all of Sharon’s carefully laid plans begin to unravel. Will she and Stone break up? Or will she defy her mother and find a compromise that will save her relationship with the love of her life?
So, does your family/community have any stories that have been told so many times they have assumed a myth-like status? Please share. To celebrate the release of Last Chance Christmas, I’ll be giving away a copy of the book to one lucky commenter.
Two-time Golden Heart Award Finalist Hope Ramsay grew up on Long Island, but spent every summer with relatives in South Carolina. Her relatives have inspired many of the South Carolinians who bring the town of Last Chance to life in her novels Home at Last Chance, Welcome to Last Chance and Last Chance Beauty Queen. Her latest novella, LAST CHANCE BRIDE, an e-book original published in September, is followed by the mass market paperback and e-book editions of her new novel, LAST CHANCE CHRISTMAS, also publishing in September.