Tag Archives: Somers Point

Water Signs: The Seen Versus The Unseen

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.” — 2 Corinthians 4:16

I’d posted a cryptic Twitter update the other day alluding to the fact that I’d received confirmation on the accuracy of my intuition, pertaining to a character in my book. I’d recently written that “Erin” was mostly a product of my imagination, an embodiment of the theme of the culture of self-absorption, with her obsession with all things material and superficial. Turns out, as I’ve discovered from a reliable source, I was right on target in my portrayal of her without even realizing it. Of course, the whole LinkedIn incident should have provided a very big clue as to this person’s true nature, along with the revealing status updates that inspired a professionalism post.

Sadly it appears that spouses, just like friends, do indeed have the power to change previously upstanding, deep-thinking  people for the worse, which seems to be the case here. Either that, or for some strange reason, she wants her husband to come across online as an infantile, immature version of his former self — the guy I once knew who inspired a larger-than-life character in both Water Signs and my forthcoming sequel.  Let me just say, I am thrilled that the novel came into existence prior to my knowledge of these realities, because Ken has definitely come into his own as a fictional creation — one that extends far beyond his initial, real-life foundation.

I don’t know if the guy I remember from the past and spoke with over the phone as recently as two years ago even existed in the first place, but I choose to believe in his sincerity. Coming from his background, his honorable ambition and drive to succeed — originally fueled by an admirable work ethic and desire to blaze a new and different trail from the one put forth by his father — makes it very easy to understand how he’d fall prey so easily to an attractive woman with an agenda. I’ve seen this scenario play itself out over and over again, especially in South Florida — particularly in Boca Raton — where too many people get caught up exclusively in the material trappings of life.

And when either the guy or girl in the scenario isn’t strong enough to listen to his/her inner guidance when it’s flashing warning signals about an impending marital union, either that person will eventually succumb to the other person’s negative influence until they become unrecognizable, choose to remain in the marriage even if miserable or as character Ken does in Water Signs,  know when to leave after making every effort to salvage the union.

In Chapter 24 — a recreation of actual life — Maddy receives another surprise visit from Ken on the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend, a few days after dreaming vividly that he’d broken off his engagement to Erin:

By the time early afternoon rolled around, she’d finished her chores and had changed into her bathing suit and cover-up. She was busily placing a towel, a magazine and a few bottles of water into her canvas tote bag when a knock at the door took her by surprise. Her heart lurched when she opened it to find Kenny standing before her, smiling in his typical fashion, dressed in shorts and a tee shirt. It bothered her that in spite of all the pain he’d inflicted, her body still tingled at the mere sight of him. Suddenly, she remembered the dream she’d recently had about him breaking off his engagement.

“Ken! I must say, this is an unexpected surprise!” She endeavored to remain cordial and calm, while keeping her hopes in check.

“Hey, how are you doing, Maddy? Can I come in?”

“Uh, I guess there’s no harm in that,” she replied lightly, offering him a seat and a cold bottle of water. Was it her imagination or did he possess the unmistakable aura of a defeated man?

There was no sparkle, no luster in his aquamarine eyes, which appeared to be lost in thought as he stared off into the distance. And as he held the bottle of Zephyrhills in his hands, he leaned forward on the couch as if grappling with an unspoken, internal conflict.

“Is everything ok?” she inquired, settling in at a safe distance beside him. “You seem a bit preoccupied.”

“Huh? Oh yeah, everything’s fine. It’s just that—well I guess I’ve turned into my father after all,” he sighed. Madeline wasn’t quite sure what to make of that statement, though it hardly coalesced with the profile of a happily engaged man eager to exchange vows with his beloved. What exactly was he trying to convey?

“Oh,” she responded softly, recalling the difficulties he and his dad had endured in the course of their relationship. Though they’d seemed to patch things up that New Year’s Day at her house in Pennsylvania, Maddy had no idea where things stood with them at this point.

“Well is that such a bad thing?” she asked.

Kenny turned to face her, staring deeply into her amber eyes, nearly causing her to tumble to the floor.

“I hope the excitement comes back after Erin and I are married,” he confessed.

Why was he telling her this? Was he just trying to spare her feelings by pretending not to be enthralled by the idea of marrying another woman? Or was he attempting to get her to open up about her feelings for him—feelings she still harbored in the infinite depths of her heart and soul, no matter how hard she fought to expel them?

“Kenny, I don’t know what to say,” she finally blurted out.

“Madeline, do you ever miss our conversations, you know, the way we used to talk? God, you were so easy to talk to!” He ran a hand through his blond hair as he spoke.

“Well, I will admit Kenny that no man before or after you has ever treated me the way you did. No one has come close to that level of affection, respect and kindness.” Her tone was wistful as her thoughts turned to Jake, Jim, Gary and now, Mark.

“It was all you, Maddy,” he insisted. “It was all because you were such a joy to be around. You always listened without judgment; I could talk to you for hours about anything!”

This scene ends with a hug and a few tears, though Madeline — just like me in real life — cannot bring herself to admit her true feelings. She’s too consumed with an ardent belief in right and wrong, considering an engaged commitment on just as equal a footing as a marital one; in her mind, Ken needs to be strong enough to walk away, even if by doing so there’s no guarantee that she, Madeline, will be waiting in the wings.

Her new friends from the dance studio however, beg to differ:

“If you want my opinion, the guy stopped by to see you to try to figure out if getting married is the right thing to do,” Scott offered plainly as he dried himself off on a chaise lounge. Ken had just left after spending nearly four hours poolside with Maddy and her friends from Fred Astaire.

“Or maybe he just wanted one last fling before he ties the knot!” Lloyd teased, playfully punching her in the shoulder. He was blissfully unaware of the ludicrousness of his statement, considering Ken and Madeline’s passionate, but chaste history. However, Maddy wasn’t about to ‘fess up to keeping her virginity intact to this new group of friends, nice as they were. Something gave her the distinct impression such news would raise a few eyebrows as well as concerns for her mental health.

“Nah Lloyd, Kenny’s not like that; he’s a very honorable guy and he knows I have high standards. I don’t go after other women’s boyfriends, fiancées or husbands—it’s just not my style. Besides, if he does break his engagement, I want it to be entirely his decision with no influence from me. If he’s having second thoughts about marrying Erin, he shouldn’t go through with it period, regardless of how I feel or what I do.”

“Yeah, you have a point,” Rebecca concurred. “But I gotta say, Maddy, he gave you the perfect opening to tell him how you really feel. I don’t know—if it was me and I still loved the guy, I’d tell him.”

“Rebecca, I can’t hurt a woman I’ve never even met—a woman who’s done nothing to me just because Kenny and I couldn’t get our timing straight! It wouldn’t be right; I wouldn’t want someone hurting me like that! And even if I did admit my real feelings, there’s no guarantee he’d end things with her anyway. I got the very strong impression that he’s resigned himself to his decision, even if it’s wrong. I don’t think he could live with the guilt of hurting her and her family by backing out now.”

“Well maybe you have a point,” Rebecca conceded. “Still, I’m amazed by you, Maddy. Do you know how many women would move in for the kill in this situation? Hell, I’ve had girlfriends who had no qualms about stealing my boyfriends right out from under my nose!”

“It was strange though, when he called her on his cell from my apartment,” Maddy admitted. He didn’t tell her where he was, for obvious reasons. But it was more than that—it was almost as if he felt stifled by the whole conversation, like she has him on a short leash or something. Anyway, he’s not the upbeat, gregarious, fun-loving guy I remember. And for someone about to get married, he’s sure not excited about it.”

“All I can say is for the guy to spend an entire Saturday afternoon on a Holiday weekend with an old girlfriend, and not his fiancée, something is terribly wrong,” Lloyd commented.

And while I listened to everyone’s input, I still couldn’t justify hurting a woman I didn’t know, simply because “Ken” and I kept messing things up between us, a thought process Madeline articulates in the above paragraph, much to the consternation of the entire group. I will also admit that I wasn’t thinking clearly at the time, so enveloped was I in the heartbreak of the whole situation. Maybe there was a little bit of pride at work, too, in the sense of You hurt me? Well, I’ll show you I don’t need you. You made your choice, now live with it, kind of way.

And it now appears that he’s not only living with his choice, he’s allowed it transform him from a once thoughtful, deep-thinking individual who was actually concerned with important things far beyond the scope of just his own little world, into a vain, shallow man who can’t stop bragging about his new status in life — from where he gets his hair cut to  his family’s latest 5-star vacation.

But in choosing a different ending for Water Signs to keep my main characters around for a compelling sequel, Ken takes an entirely different approach in Chapter 28:

Unfortunately, their live-in arrangement soon revealed significant differences—impediments that Ken hoped would either dissolve entirely, or at least mitigate once they were united in the bonds of marriage. In hindsight of course, he’d realized the folly of his thinking. That while he truly did love Erin, it had been utterly foolish to believe they could actually go the distance with her relentless insecurities, self-centeredness and proclivity towards distrust inflicting slow, steady and ultimately—unfixable, damage to their union.

Every female, whether Ken’s boss, co-worker or fellow college student, provoked Erin’s pervasive jealousy. On more than one occasion he recalled knock-down, drag-out arguments with her over innocuous incidents, from a study session in broad daylight over coffee at Starbucks, to mandatory after-hours socializing with the sales and operations teams at a company-sponsored event.

And a few paragraphs later:

Strange also that this particular year had brought her so much clarity; he’d just signed his divorce papers the previous fall. Did Maddy somehow know that? If she had been aware of his marital status, she offered no indication in her correspondence. His last recent search of public records had revealed no information whatsoever, which was understandable, given that his attorney had advised him it could take up to a year for such records to be updated on Internet databases. With no mutual friends or acquaintances to spread the word, Maddy was most likely in the dark. And that made her gesture even more impressive.

Ken rolled over onto his side, kicking the cotton sheets down to the end of the bed. Ever since having children, he no longer enjoyed the luxury of sleeping in the raw, and had taken to wearing boxer shorts. Tonight, he’d just happened to have chosen a green pair featuring the Philadelphia Eagles logo, though it had been ages since he’d actually slept in them. Somehow it only seemed appropriate. Funny, Erin despised football, one of the many activities Ken and Maddy had delighted in together.

It was also thrilling that she regarded him as a catalyst for positive change in her life, despite all of the heartbreak he’d caused her. And the thought that he’d somehow inspired her was the icing on the cake. All this time he feared she might actually feel nothing but contempt for him, though he completely understood her rationale for keeping her distance. He supposed it was selfish of him to want to keep her as a friend while he gave his love and devotion to another woman, but he’d truly missed her presence in his life.

In the book of course, this leads to a reunion which eventually leads to a marriage proposal and wedding a full 16 years after their initial meeting at the Somers Point Dance Club (which by the way, was a real place called “Key West”, though I changed it to “Key Largo” in the novel).

While it is sad to witness through cyberspace such a profound change for the worse in the man I remember, I am thankful for the unexpected rush of memories that led me to create a character who is much beloved by my readers. And unlike his real-life counterpart, Ken will continue to evolve as a man, father, husband, Christian and American, never allowing the material aspects of life — wonderful as they may be — to become his “god” or to alter who he is at the very core of his being.

Looking forward to finishing Sea To Shining Sea very soon!

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God and Spirituality in Water Signs, Part One

Front cover of my novel, Water Signs: A Story of Love and Renewal

As in real life, faith and belief in God and spiritual growth play a major role in Water Signs, particularly in the character development of the book’s heroine, Madeline. Like me, she was brought up in a traditional, Catholic home where the family attended weekly mass together, celebrated sacramental milestones (First Holy Communion, Confirmation, etc) and sent their children to parochial school.  One of the things for which I am most grateful to this very day is the solid foundation of faith my parents gave me — along with clear boundaries of discipline. While I never thought of them as being overly strict or too lenient, my guess is that by today’s standards, most kids would view them as “out of touch”.

Given the prevalence of current cultural problems like drug and alcohol abuse, sexually transmitted diseases and generally out-of-control, irresponsible behavior,  I consider myself very fortunate indeed to have grown up with parents who cared enough to set and enforce the rules. This responsibility mainly fell onto my mom, since my dad’s work as a surgeon often kept him out of the house during the after-school hours of dinner, homework and play time. Being a strong, independent and determined woman, mom was never one to scold, “Just wait until your father gets home!” when one of us was in need of severe reprimanding. Whenever there was a need for punishment (which, in truth, was rare as we were all pretty good kids most of the time), she had no qualms dispensing it. For me, one warning look from my mother was typically enough to change my behavior. I knew she meant business.

But I also knew her as not only disciplinarian, but as ever-willing helper with school-work, homeroom mother, Home & School Association President, confidante and comforter. Perhaps most importantly, she was also my first spiritual guide who taught me how to make the Sign of the Cross and recite prayers like the Our Father.  And the values imparted in the home were reinforced through 18 years of Catholic schooling — from Montessori to university.

However, our traditional beliefs never stopped us from doing something that I now know many Christians consider the work of the Devil — reading a daily horoscope. Along with the crossword puzzle, my mother and I used to take great delight in checking out that day’s forecast for Aries and Pisces, our respective signs. Never did either of us think of it as anything more than fun entertainment, kind of like a thought for the day. And in no way did it change our beliefs about God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit; it was simply an enjoyable activity that became part of our morning routine.

In the novel, the same is true for Madeline. Thus, when she unexpectedly makes Ken’s acquaintance at the Somers Point dance club in Chapter One, she takes no offense when he expresses his delight upon discovering that they are both Pisces. He’s further intrigued to learn that not only do they share the same sign, but also the same exact birthday, down to the year.  As an author, I gave my two main characters the same date of birth to enhance the “star-crossed”, “soul-mate” aspect of the novel, as if to suggest that God purposely brought these two souls into the world simultaneously so that they could experience life in a physical body and aid in each other’s spiritual growth while on Earth. Once they’d finally met each other for seemingly the first time (at least at the physical level), this purpose could be fulfilled. In real-life, “Ken” and I are both Pisces born in the same year, but about two weeks apart.

The Pisces symbol also reflects real life significance in terms of Madeline’s grandmother. In a previous post, I revealed that March 7 — the shared birthday of Ken and Madeline — was actually my maternal grandmother’s birthday. I’d enjoyed an especially close bond with her, having been born several months after my grandfather’s death and thus provided her a much-needed, joyful distraction from bereavement and sorrow. According to my mom, it was almost as if I were her baby, given the way she constantly doted over me. Although she died quite traumatically a month before I turned seven, my remembrances of her are crystal-clear, thanks to the close bond we’d shared, and the many wonderful hours we’d spent together. “Nanny” epitomized everything a grandmother should be: loving, warm, caring and comforting. A stickler for looking her best, she always had her hair done, and wore nice dresses with matching pearl necklaces and earrings. Her best accessories, however, were her ever-present smile and joyful disposition.

Which brings me to perhaps the most controversial element of the book, which is also an event straight out of real life. While still battling panic and anxiety disorder — in spite of embracing just about every known remedy from prayer and meditation to Yoga and exercise — I bumped into a very interesting woman at a monthly business/networking meeting. Trained in what is known in military circles as “remote viewing”, she was in reality what most civilians call a psychic — and many Christians a “handmaiden of the Devil”, although upon first sight, she looked like just another no-nonsense businesswoman.

When Maddy meets Ann Claire in the novel, it’s an accurate retelling of my own experience. Thus, when Ann accurately calls out Maddy’s guilt for “leaving behind a middle brother who is handicapped” (my brother Ralph who is in-between oldest son, Mark, and youngest son, Paul), and notes that she is still “in mourning” for a grandmother who’d passed away over 20 years prior, it’s an example of fact that has only been fictionalized marginally. I might have changed the names and altered the descriptions a bit, but the basic events are 100% true, including the fact that Maddy awakes one morning — six months after a private reading with Ann — to discover that for the first time in years, her head is clear, her stomach is calm and that the black cloud that seemed to relentlessly hang over her head has completely dissipated:

And exactly six months later, Maddy awoke with a clear head, a calm stomach and an overall feeling of excellent health for the first time in nearly eight years. It was as if a black cloud had finally been lifted, leaving a clear, blue sky and a brilliant rainbow in its place. Overcome with sheer gratitude, joy and relief, Madeline called Ann to share the wonderful news, exclaiming, “Ann, thank God I ran into you that night! I don’t know what I would have done if I hadn’t — I was at my wits’ end!”

“Madeline,” she replied dryly, “You manifested me into your life, don’t you know that? God led you to me, based on your own intentions.”

As was true for me at the time, Madeline doesn’t quite grasp the meaning of that statement until much later, when she takes a course at Unity Church in Delray Beach. She’d been reading Daily Word faithfully for years, having been gifted a subscription by her mother, and had even called their toll-free prayer line on many occasions, without really knowing anything more about the organization. That would change upon meeting the local minister and taking a few classes.

More thoughts on God and spirituality in my next post.


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Creating Ken, Part Two

The process of transforming a real person  — in this case, a former romantic interest — into a heroic, fictional character was quite interesting, to say the least. As I noted in Creating Ken, Part One, memory can be  a tricky mechanism. At first, when the floodgates had unexpectedly burst open in my mind, overwhelming me with thoughts of the real guy and what had taken place sixteen years earlier, the way he’d treated me, the things he’d said, the way he’d looked, etc. all I could think about were the good times, and all I could do was cry over what might have been.

I remembered our unusual meeting at the club, his initial attraction to my statuesque girlfriend and the means by which we ended up spending the night dancing and laughing until the 2 a.m. closing time. I cracked up reminiscing about going around the traffic circle to The Point Diner with him afterwards as a compromise, since I’d rebuffed several offers to go back his place for coffee (I didn’t write this dialogue in the scene in the novel, but I was apologetic, explaining that although he didn’t look dangerous, I couldn’t take a chance. He just sort of made a funny face in reply, prompting more laughter).

On and on these wonderful mental recreations went, moving into our first real kiss at the top of the Taj Mahal; a weekend spent going to a dinner theater on Saturday evening, followed by an Eagles game on Sunday; hanging out at his place looking through photo albums from his time in the US Navy; and of course, fighting the internal battle between physical attraction and fear, desire and morality.

And just like Madeline, I simply could not express in words what I was feeling. Thus, the occasions when I’d make him drive me back across the 9th Street Bridge from his bachelor townhouse in Somers Point to my family’s vacation home in Ocean City, where a houseful of people provided the comfort of knowing there would be no danger of caving in to temptation.

Then came the painful stuff: my mom’s uncharacteristic meddling in the relationship simply because the guy had not yet completed his undergraduate degree (to be discussed in a future post) which led me to write a Dear John letter in spite of the facts that I 1) wanted to continue the relationship; and 2) had the support of everyone else in my family.

Ken, after all, had a wonderful sense of humor, an infectious love of life, a quick-wit and obvious intelligence. Moreover, he was cute, romantic, manly and apparently enamored of me. In short, since he was the polar opposite of the jerk who’d dumped me over the phone a few months’ prior, I didn’t quite know how to handle his penchant for regularly telling me I was beautiful, and complimenting me on everything from the way I was dressed to the way I spoke in enthusiastic energy bursts (especially when the topic centered around the Eagles/NFL football and politics).

Then came anger. Anger at myself. Anger that, in spite of years of dating, I’d not yet found, nor married anyone who’d demonstrated the same sort of affection and respect.

Anger at him for also being human and for doing some pretty darned hurtful and stupid things, like picking a fight with me one summer evening when I casually stated over the phone that I didn’t “care” what time he got off from work — that I would meet him whenever he was done for our date. What I’d meant was that I understood and did not hold against him the fact that he had to work a late shift, and although I perhaps could have stated it better, he did react immaturely. In the end, we made up at the same club where we’d originally met each other. And unlike the book, “Ken” and I danced to Eric Clapton’s Wonderful Tonight that evening, whereas Madeline and Ken partake in a “dance” of a different sort while this song plays in the background in Chapter 34.

And — lest I forget — anger at him for standing me up for a ski date without so much as the courtesy of a phone call (to this day, I have no idea what really happened, but suspect he was already either living in Florida, or  in the process of moving south); calling me out of the blue six months later to announce his relocation to The Sunshine State; and withholding the minor detail that his so-called “platonic female roommate” was actually his fiancée (not even coming clean after I’d finally declared my intention to make the move to Florida myself).

Was this payback for hurting him?

I’ll admit, I folded to unfairly imposed pressure, which led me to cancel out on attending both a family wedding and a work party as his date, then subsequently break up with him (before we got back together in a sense, a month or so later). So it’s fair to say that we each dished it out as much as we took it. Still, it hit me like a ton of bricks — notwithstanding women’s intuition — the day he showed up at my apartment and confirmed what I already knew in my heart to be true.

This particular portion of the memory reel was akin to watching a tragic movie in which — no matter how hard you might wish for a different ending — the hero succumbs to his illness, or dies valiantly in a dangerous rescue effort on the battlefield. Shedding my selective, 14+ year-old, self-imposed amnesia was not only incredibly painful and ultimately fruitless on a personal relationship level, it was also quite healing and inevitably useful in a professional sense, as it led to the creation of Water Signs.  As I’ve said, writing is therapy. And when people actually like what you’ve written, it’s also unbelievably fulfilling.

While reliving the good, bad and the ugly, I realized that “Ken”, like all people,  had his faults. He was not above pettiness, nor was he immune to the foibles of human nature. When his heart and ego were bruised, he responded by bruising back in kind. I doubt he ever expected me to work up the courage to uproot my life “up north” and relocate to a tropical paradise where my only known contacts aside from him were former schoolmates of my parents I’d never even met, but who nonetheless opened the doors of their home to me until I could secure my own living arrangements.

I can only imagine what must’ve gone through his mind as another woman’s betrothed, knowing that a former romantic interest would now be living in the vicinity, blissfully unaware of the truth. This is yet another example of something I had to completely fabricate in the novel — thus fictional Ken embarks on a lot of soul-searching in the wake of Maddy’s unsettling news, prompting him to meet his mother for a heart-to-heart at the Deerfield Beach Fishing Pier, during which he expresses his “torn between two lovers” dilemma.

Was this the case in real life? Did “Ken” experience an emotional tug-of-war, featuring conflicting feelings for two distinct women, or was it simply guilt for withholding important information from me? Who knows for sure, although in another entry I will share some real-life events and conversations that transpired as a parallel to the novel’s manifestation. Suffice it to say, there are some occurrences  in life about which we don’t always receive clear,  genuine answers, and that is certainly true to some degree in this instance. The best you (I) can (could) do is (was) learn from the experience and draw from it whatever is (was) helpful, uplifting and positive.

For me, that was creating an amazing network of friends and contacts in my adopted state, and writing my first novel.

More to come in another post.

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Guidelines for Fictionalizing Facts into a Novel, Part Five

Reconciliation between Water Signs’ two main characters, Madeline Rose and Kenneth Lockheart

As mentioned previously, when the story unfolds in 1992, the character of Madeline Rose is still somewhat naive and insecure, in spite of having grown into an attractive young woman of 25. She’s just endured an incredibly painful breakup with her first boyfriend, and is reeling from the ramifications, in spite of the realization it was all for the best. Indeed, as the story progresses, readers learn via flashbacks and conversations among characters that Jake Winston’s abrupt exit from Madeline’s life — while clumsy and cruel — is also a tremendous relief to those who love her.

Unfortunately, having occurred on the heels of a difficult adolescence wherein dates were as scarce as 80-degree days in the middle of January in Pennsylvania, it wreaks havoc with her ability to see herself as a vital, attractive and smart young woman who is worthy of the good things in life.

When a twist of fate leads to a shared late-summer evening at a Somers Point, New Jersey nightclub with a fun-loving, intelligent and handsome former US Navy sailor  — who also happens to be her exact same age — it never occurs to Madeline that the meeting will progress beyond a few laughs and couple of dances. Ken’s impressive self-sufficiency and  life experience are simultaneously a source of pride and conflict. On one hand, she’s genuinely thrilled to know of someone who’s overcome obstacles and admirably served his country; on the other, she cannot help but draw an unfair comparison between this new guy and her ex-boyfriend.

Will he, like Jake before him, resent her for not having to endure the same family and financial challenges? Worse, will he view her as someone whose physical appearance, while acceptable, still needs some improvement?

Of course, the fact that Ken initially makes overtures to her exotic, statuesque friend Carmen (with the purchase and presentation of a long-stemmed rose) lays the foundation for her erroneous belief that he is simply marking time by agreeing to hang out with her. While to readers it should become fairly obvious rather quickly that the US Navy vet is truly charmed by his unlikely date for the evening, thanks to Madeline’s inability to let go of the recent past, she cannot quite accept that reality. Thus, several hours later, she’s amazed that he actually followed through with his promise to meet her at the beach.

For his part, Ken is quite enamored of his new romantic interest, and her wonderful, welcoming family. However, due to Madeline’s inability to adequately express herself, he’s puzzled by her reaction to his sincere compliments and genuine desire to someday make her his wife. He’s also intrigued by her innocence, and hopelessly enticed by the very real possibility of becoming her “first” and only.

But Ken is not without his own insecurities, the most insurmountable of which are his feelings of not being good enough for the daughter of a successful neurosurgeon — a situation that is only exacerbated when Maddy abruptly ends the relationship because of maternal pressure. Seems Mrs. Rose, although she finds Ken to be a likable and mannerly young man, cannot get over the fact that he’s not yet completed his college degree.

Monica’s pride in her own father’s accomplishment of having graduated from Temple Pharmacy School in 1919 (during a time when such an achievement by immigrants was nearly unheard of), becomes a source of heretofore nonexistent contention between mother and youngest child. Further, with the rest of her brood either married or on their way to the altar, the sticking point of a college education appears to be the only way to slow down a relationship that is moving much too fast for her liking.

Though she has the blessing of the rest of her family — including Dr. Rose — to continue the relationship, Madeline’s utter distaste for conflict, particularly between her two parents, along with her own seemingly insurmountable insecurities, conspire to lead her to a series of very unfortunate actions. Among the pain and hurt she unintentionally inflicts upon Ken are her decisions to back out of being his date for a work party and a wedding, and ending the relationship with a Dear John letter.

And although the pair reunites shortly thereafter, Madeline’s inability to communicate the motivations behind her actions, ultimately leads to more heartbreak. Perhaps unconsciously, Ken decides to inflict the same sort of heartbreak upon her when he stands her up for a much-anticipated ski date; months later, a phone call out of the blue adds insult to injury when he reveals he’s relocated to Florida.

Several more months down the road, after a series of regular phone calls from Ken, during which he encourages and at times, implores her to join him, Madeline finally makes her shocking (to those who know and love her) and bold move to The Sunshine State, simultaneously wanting to be with Ken and frustrated with life “up north”. She cannot seem to gain traction either in a fulfilling career or a loving relationship (though she’s certainly given the dating scene plenty of tries); further, it has become increasingly difficult to watch her siblings’ lives progress even as her own remains stagnant.

What she doesn’t bargain for is the discovery that Ken’s “platonic” roommate is actually his betrothed — a suspicion that’s confirmed by an in-person visit to her apartment not long after her arrival in South Florida. A humiliated, angry and devastated Maddy nevertheless takes the high road when Ken asks her point-blank how she feels about the news; in an Oscar-worthy performance, she leads him to believe she’s moved on.

Thus when the two characters unexpectedly reunite well over a decade later, there is much to discuss, forgive and reconcile before they can renew and revitalize their relationship into something that far surpasses anything they’d experienced before. Both have grown and matured to the point where honest communication leads to genuine understanding and full release of the mistakes of the past. All is forgiven, and all that matters to them now is the present moment.

Coming soon: the mother-daughter bond, and the theme of reconciliation.

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