Books by Mary McDonough
LESSONS FROM THE MOUNTAIN:
What I Learned from Erin Walton
THE HOUSE ON HONEYSUCKLE LANE
Published by Kensington Publishing Corporation
The House on Honeysuckle Lane
All copyrighted material within is Attributor Protected.
KENSINGTON BOOKS are published by
Kensington Publishing Corp.
119 West 40th Street
New York, NY 10018
Copyright Â© 2016 by Mary McDonough
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any means without the prior written consent of the Publisher, excepting brief quotes used in reviews.
Kensington and the K logo Reg. U.S. Pat. & TM Off.
Library of Congress Card Catalogue Number: 2016945052
First Kensington Hardcover Edition: October 2016
First Kensington Electronic Edition: October 2016
To all the “Orphans” out there.
My mother used to say a person was an “orphan” when they lost the second of their two parents, no matter how old the person was. I have been an orphan for a while now. I lost my father when I was sixteen, my mother twenty-seven years later.
Maybe because of this, I have “adopted” siblings and families over the years. I often say that family is really what you make it. Bloodlines may make us feel related, but it's truly love, compassion and sometimes tears that bring us together. Tears of laughter, tears of joy.
I have been lucky to have many “families.” My McDonough and Walton families molded me into who I am. My adopted families have made a huge difference in my life.
Losing one's parents is never easy. Going through their possessions can be daunting. What they leave behind isn't just
things. I found the mementos of other deceased family members when I sorted through what my parents left behind. Each one's life was reduced to a mere suitcase or trunk. How can a life fit in a suitcase? Sorting through the remnants of what my parents left behind was illuminating, frustrating, horribly sad, difficult and oddly uplifting. One can truly honor and contemplate someone's life by examining what they leave behind. It forced me to ponder for my own life; what is important, what are my own attachments and the meaning of the items I'll leave behind.
So what does it all mean? How do we ever let go of our loved ones? I don't know if we ever do. I know I haven't. They are with me forever like scars on my heart. They remind me of who I am and encourage me to create my own legacy . . . one that isn't summed up in a box of old check stubs, old glasses, a watch, cards, drawings, mildewed bibles, photos with no names, love letters and farm notes.
The House on Honeysuckle Lane
is for anyone who has had to go through a parent or loved one's
. It's about attachment. The “stuff,” traditions, people, beliefs, and the objects we get attached to. It's about what we hold on to, and, what we let go of. It's understanding the connection between material things and important memories. Family is made up as much of memories, love, compassion and choices as it is DNA. Sometimes, through loss, we find the greatest treasures inside our memories.
Thanks to my parents. From beginning to end, all roads lead back to you. So much gratitude for my brothers; we have been in this together. My appreciation of you grew as we traveled through our own attachments. I am forever attached to you, from this life to the next.
My related family who make my life complete: John, Michael, Sydnee, Aunt Ellen, Jackson and Christopher and all my cousins, Irish and American!
More thanks than I can ever say to the insightful John Scognamiglio. You make it all possible. Thanks for listening and giving my stories a voice and life. Your guidance, help, care and trust in me are appreciated more than I can say.
To Kevin for your support and encouragement in everything! To Elise for always understanding me, family and the importance of sharing thoughts and words. You GET it! My Maria, my wordsmith queen, I adore you! To my personal Buddhas Jeanne Russell and Pete Lee, whose practices inspire me. Thanks for reminding me who I am. To my writing sisters, Jane Porter and Mary Alice Monroe, thanks for the inspiration and for taking me under your wing. To my girls, Kylie and Robyn, thanks for choosing me to be your family.
Hugs of thanks to all my chosen “family”: Kate, Caren, June, Kari, Mary G, Mo, Ann, Tom, Mellie, Sylvane, Dave, Karen, Pam, Earl, Jane, Claire, Rod, Will, Ellen, Leslie, Eric, Cindy, Jon, Marion, Judy, Bob, Kami, Kim, David, Richard, Georgie, Ralph, Michael, John, Mama Marlene, Papa Kruger, Sister Shatto, Jake, Ray, Tim, Carol, Don, Bethie and Nancy.
To my Reynolds family, my childhood siblings, parents and grandparents. To Granny and Gramps and Mary Beth, you taught me what a big, sharing family is. To all the Walton fans and my online Facebook family, your support is so appreciated!
To my Don, without you, there is no sunrise. I am forever grateful for your encouragement and loving me through each step I take. My books would not be possible without you. You amaze me daily with your care and love of me and our family. You are my hero.
A family is a place where minds come in contact with one another. If these minds love one another the home will be as beautiful as a flower garden.
t was a beautiful day in late October; the sky was a brilliant blue and there was a slightly spicy smell of wood smoke in the clear, cool air. It was the perfect day for a funeralâif there ever was such a thingâand Daniel Reynolds was weary after the emotional service to say farewell to his mother.
The turnout at the Unitarian Universalist Church had been large, so large that at least ten or fifteen people had been forced to stand for the duration of the service. Caroline Reynolds had been a popular resident of Oliver's Well, Virginia, since she had moved to the little town over forty years ago with her new husband, Clifford. His funeral, only a few years earlier, had also been well attended. Cliff had grown up in Oliver's Well and had returned after college to build a successful accounting and tax preparation practice. He had been highly regarded as an utterly trustworthy man, discrete, dedicated, and loyal to his clients. That both of the senior members of the Reynolds family had passed at such a young ageâeach still in their sixtiesâwas seen as a tragedy in the town's close-knit community.
In spite of the healthy turnout at Caro's funeral, the Reynolds siblings had invited only a few close friends to the luncheon afterward at the Angry Squire, Oliver's Well's most popular restaurant. Daniel, the youngest child and the only son, as well as the only one of the Reynolds siblings to have made a life in Oliver's Well after completing his education, had compiled the guest list. In fact, he had organized the funeral as well, working with Reverend Fox to create a personalized service for each of his parents. This dedication was nothing unusual; ever since Cliff Reynolds's passing, Daniel had acted as his mother's caretaker and as the official trustee of his parents' estate.
Daniel, too, felt that his parents' deaths warranted the description of tragedy. When he had chosen the menu for the luncheon, he had taken care to select what had been his father's favorite entrÃ©e and his mother's favorite wine as a small tribute to them. He had wondered if either of his sisters, Andie or Emma, would recognize the significance of the London broil and the French Chablis; neither had commented, so Daniel had sadly concluded that the significance of his selections were lost on all but himself.
Joe Herbert, once Cliff's protÃ©gÃ© and then his successor in the firm of Reynolds and Herbert, and his wife, Jenna, a doctor with a thriving practice in family medicine, were two of the last to leave the restaurant. Joe shook Daniel's hand. “I'll call you tomorrow,” he said, “to discuss those questions you had about the estate.” Jenna kissed Daniel on the cheek and wished him well. “Let me know if there's anything I can do,” she offered. “If you and Anna Maria need a night out on your own I can bring your kids to my house for a few hours. My kids would love it.” Daniel thanked her and, not for the first time, felt grateful for the Herberts' friendship.
The very last to leave the Angry Squire was Maureen Kline, Emma's friend from childhood. Maureen, too, offered a final word of condolence to Daniel, then shook his hand and went on her way.
When Maureen was gone and only the family remained, Daniel realized that he felt a profound sense of let down. It was over, his mother's life, and with it, an entire chapter of the Reynolds family's history; with both parents gone, Cliff and now Caro, it was time for what remained of the family to move on with the rest of their lives. Watching his sisters talking quietly with his wife and their two children, seeing Bob Dolman, Andie's ex-husband, with his arm around their daughter, Rumi, Daniel felt the poignancy of the moment. The surviving family was poised on the brink between the past and the future. It was said by men far wiser than Daniel that the threshold was the place where one should pause. And then, the wise men said, one should continue on.
Problem was, Daniel wasn't quite sure how continuing on was going to play out. He wanted the family to thrive as a strong unit. And he believed that he was the one to make a future happen for the Reynoldses. But as for a plan . . .
Ian Hayes, Emma's long-time boyfriend, came back into the dining room; he had gone to bring his car around from the municipal lot. Now, Emma, Ian, and Andie came over to where Daniel stood on his own, hands in the pockets of his suit pants.
“Ian and I are heading back to Annapolis now, Danny,” Emma said, her eyes still a little red from crying.
“And I'm off to the airport,” Andie told him in her famously melodious voice.
Daniel nodded. “All right,” he said. “But don't forget, there's the contents of the house to go through and a decision about what if anything to sell outright or put up for auction. And we'll need to sell the house itself before long. It shouldn't be left standing empty. And Mom wanted us all here together to make those decisions.”
“I've got commitments through July,” Andie said. “My publisher has arranged a series of readings from New York to California. I should be free to make a plan when the book tour is done.” She reached for and hugged her brother; he took his hands from his pockets and briefly patted her back.
“Six months is tooâ” he began, but his sister cut him off.
“Don't worry, Danny,” Andie said quietly but firmly. “There's no real rush, is there? And thanks for handling everything so beautifully.”
“Thank you, Danny,” Emma said, reaching out to take his hands in hers. “You did a great job with everything. Mom would have been proud. So would Dad.”
Ian put out his hand for Daniel to shake. “Keep in touch, Danny,” he said. And then, taking Emma's hand, they left for their life back in Annapolis, Andie following a few steps behind on the first leg of her journey back to her home in upstate New York.
Daniel watched his sisters leave the Angry Squire, once the scene of so many pleasant evenings with their parents, the whole family gathered together to share a meal and conversation and laughter. Suddenly, Daniel felt a surge of frustration rise up in him. Getting Andie and Emma back to Oliver's Well any time soon to sort through the house and make the important decisions together as a family, as their mother had wanted, would not be easy. And of course, it would be up to him to orchestrate the visit, not only because he was the trustee of their mother's estate but also because over the years he had becomeâfor better or worse he sometimes didn't knowâthe acknowledged head of the family.
Daniel's wife, Anna Maria, joined him and slipped her arm through his. He noted the simple gold wedding band on her slim finger and felt enormously thankful she had agreed to marry him thirteen years earlier.
“You okay?” she asked.
Daniel put his hand over hers. “I'm fine. I was just wondering when we'll see my sisters again.”
Anna Maria smiled reassuringly. “Don't worry about that now. It's been a long day for everyone, especially the kids. Sophia is a little bit weepy again, and Marco is falling asleep on his feet. Let's go home.”
“Yes,” Daniel said, suddenly feeling as exhausted as his son. “Home.”