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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: The Family Reunion (06/05/08)

TITLE: Change Is On The Way
By Deborah Engle


Beans, chopped peppers, beans, chopped onions and more beans all went into the largest bowl she owned. Shaking together the ingredients for the dressing, Sherry realized she was humming and she couldn’t help but smile. It had been so long since she had seen her family, but that was about to change. She covered the finished salad and slid it onto the refrigerator shelf just as Tim walked through the kitchen door.

“Hi, Sweetheart,” she offered. His lack of response caused her to turn and look his way.

“Sherry…” Tim started, then cleared his throat and tried again. “The car broke down on the way home and the mechanic from the garage just dropped me off. They can’t get the parts they need until Monday …so we won’t be able to make it to the reunion tomorrow.”

“We… can’t… go?”

“I’m sorry, Sherry.”

“I… guess I’ll phone my parents.”

Still discouraged the next morning, Sherry was relieved that all the children accepted the change in plans without much fuss. “It’s been so long since we’ve gone home, the kids have forgotten...but I was so looking forward to seeing everyone. Tom and Tammy finally had their first baby, and Jessie just got her degree in music…she was going to critique that song I wrote…”

All morning, Sherry’s thoughts were 50 miles away. “Aunt Martha is so artistic…everything she makes is breathtaking.” “Nobody tells a better story than Uncle Paul.” “Mom’s and Dad’s different ailments have slowed them down, but through it all they’ve kept their sweet spirits.” Dejection tainted every memory.

Realizing the morning was coming to a close, Sherry roused herself from her dreary thoughts. Walking to the shed to collect her gardening tools, she noticed a little figure standing in front of the glider under the oak tree. Six year-old Althea had her stuffed animals lined up on the seat and was teaching them a song.

“You all lithen the firtht time, then you can thing with me, okay? Thith little light of mine…”

A fleeting smile appeared on Sherry’s face. “What a cutie.”

Turning back to her task, she opened the shed door, only to realize that the hoe was missing. While she stood there wondering where it could be, another young voice carried across the yard. Moving around to the backside of the shed, she saw Allen working away in the garden, talking to himself, as usual. “Mom looked so sad cuz we couldn’t go see Gramma. If I do the weedin’, she’ll be happy for sure. I know she’ll start smilin’ again.”

“Ooooh… What other nine year-old boy has a heart like that?”

Then she heard his voice again. “If that doesn’t help, I’ll try telling her that story about the purple dog and the alligator.”

Sherry found herself choking back a laugh that suddenly became a sob. Resentment drained out of her as sudden tears filled her eyes. “Why have I been so upset? I am a blessed woman.”

Humbled, she quietly went back to the house to collect herself. Curled up on the sofa, a spot of color caught her eye. Reaching across the table, she picked up the small ceramic sculpture. It was so delicate, and the colors were so vivid…it still amazed her that Ashley had been only ten when she created it. “Now we can’t keep her out of the clay. She has so much talent, just like Aunt Martha.”

With that thought, Sherry’s heart filled with wonder at a new insight. “I haven’t missed my family reunion at all. They’ve been right here with me all along. All those qualities that make my relatives so unique are showing up in my own children. Aunt Martha’s sitting downstairs at the potter’s wheel, creating a new work of art. I just heard Jessie down by the oak tree, singing to the stuffed animals. My parents are over in the garden, and Uncle Paul was right there with them.”

With a light heart, Sherry determined she would make the rest of the day a happy one for her family. “We can have our own picnic…” Her thoughts were interrupted by the sound of several cars turning into the long driveway, horns blasting away. Curiosity drew her outside.

As doors opened, familiar faces started appearing, and as trunks opened, loaded coolers started emerging.

“Surprise! We’ve brought the reunion to you.”

“Mom? Dad? Jessie?”

“We heard you’ve got Three-Bean Salad.”

Sherry laughed. “Boy, do we. I was afraid we’d be eating that for a week.”

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This article has been read 752 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Holly Westefeld06/13/08
I like how you wove such an important message in to the story, and still had the reunion. That's like having your cake and getting to eat it too.
Beth LaBuff 06/13/08
I love three bean salad. :) Your story is great and so heart-warming. I loved the characterizations of the children. You have a lot of writing skill. Just a thought -- I've seen other challenge pieces where the characters thoughts are put in italics. I think you'd have to use html code. There's a thread on the message boards that tell how to do that. This is a wonderful story!
Jan Ackerson 06/16/08
Wonderful and creative approach to the topic, and now I'm really hungry for bean salad.
Mariane Holbrook 06/18/08
Every time I have 3-bean salad from now on, I'll think of your entry! :-)
Very well done! Kudos!
Debbie Wistrom06/18/08
I was hoping for this ending, but had resigned myself as she had. Great twist.

Thanks for the reminder to look in our our back yard.
Helen Dowd06/18/08
This is a wonderful story. I loved it. Tears formed with the mama, but left again as the story proceeded. Then they came again as the cars started streaming down the driveway. Glad she could share her bean salad with the family. I sure wouldn't want to be eating bean salad for a week. I don't even like it...Great job....Helen
Sara Harricharan 06/18/08
I love that the reunion 'happened' after all! The line with the three bean salad was precious! And so were the kids, I loved it, you made it real with your MC and the little lesson tucked inside there. Clever! ^_^
Karen Wilber06/18/08
I love the feel of this-- uplifting and joyful. Your MC was so endearing I found myself trying to figure out how to get her to the reunion. I actually cheered when her family pulled up. And I liked the way the Three Bean Salad framed it all. Yum.
Lyn Churchyard06/18/08
Well done, wonderfully creative with a lesson to boot. I want your recipe for three been salad. The kids were just wonderful, especially the little boy wanting his Mommy to smile again. Well done indeed.

Catrina Bradley 06/18/08
From excited enthusiasm, to depression, to contentment, to excited joy - you ran the gamut of emotions here! Great job! (And you made me miss my mom's 3-bean salad, too.)
Aaron Morrow06/19/08
Outstanding work! Congratulations on a well deserved EC!
Lyn Churchyard06/19/08
Congratulations Deborah on a very well deserved EC. :- )
Sarah Engle06/19/08
Oh my! There you go again getting my waterworks going! Maybe it's just me, but your stories get me EVERY time! HOW entirely sweet of her dear husband to call all the family and arrange a VERY special surprise for her! I know, I know...you never mentioned that her hubby did the arranging, but I'm imagining that's what happened and I'm charmed by it all!
Glynis Becker06/19/08
I love it! The idea that our families are with us always is such a powerful one and I love how you put it in there. Great job and congrats on the win!
Verna Cole Mitchell 06/21/08
This is a wonderful story--one of my favorites. Congratulations on your win.