What Happens Next? When Stories End Too Soon

One afternoon, I was rocking Anna and reading her a story, as I usually do before she falls asleep for her nap. The story was “Amelia Bedelia Makes a Friend.” I finished reading the last page; then I closed the book.

Anna tapped her hand on the book. “More,” she said.

“No,” I explained. “The story’s over.” And it’s time for your nap.

Anna shook her head. “More,” she repeated. “Dubla Da!”

“Dubla Da” is how Anna says “Amelia Bedelia.” I understand Anna; I can speak Baby, as Grace says. In that moment, I also understood that my toddler daughter wanted to know what happened next in the story.

She wanted more.

What happens next?

As readers, we love finding a story so compelling that we can’t put it down. We want more. We want to know what happens next.

Eventually, we reach The End. And sometimes, we’re sorry The End has come so soon.

This past summer, I published a short fiction e-book, “This Is Just a Story” (aptly titled, right?). I loved writing this story. I had fun figuring out the characters (flawed, but redeemable). I made the setting my beloved college town of Richmond, Va., and enjoyed revisiting it in my memory. And through the plot twists and turns, I considered how human beings tell stories, a subject I’ve always been interested in.

I heard from friends, as well as complete strangers, who read and reviewed “This Is Just a Story.” The majority of them said they really enjoyed it. Some felt parts could have been better, or different. All of them wanted to know what happened next.

Eventually, we reach The End. And sometimes, we’re sorry The End has come so soon.

“I wished the story kept going,” my good friend Allison wrote in her Amazon review. Meanwhile, a reviewer I don’t know added, “[I]t left me wondering what comes next.”

More.

What happens next.

As a writer, I love that my readers enjoyed my story and wanted it to continue. That makes me so happy—so happy, in fact, that I’m working on a sequel to “This Is Just a Story.” The title?

Yes, you guessed it: “What Happens Next.”

🙂

Yet.

Sometimes stories do, simply, end before we’re ready for them to. I don’t mean short fiction stories now. Beyond “Amelia Bedelia Makes a Friend” and anything I might write…sometimes stories end too soon, in real life.

Sometimes we learn as much as we can about something, or someone. And that’s the end of the path for us and that experience, or that relationship.

Back in Richmond, I had a friend. We started as co-workers and became friends. She was friendly, fun, hard-working. Cared very much about her family members, some of whom had been through difficult times, and helped them whenever she could. I respected her very much.

Then I moved to San Antonio. She later shared with me that she was making a cross-country move too. We kept in touch, for a while. When I told her I had become a mother, she sewed a blanket and mailed it to me for Grace.

I still have that blanket, here in New York now.

What Happens Next

We aren’t close as we once were though, my friend and I. Long distance can do that to friendships. As much as I’d like our story to keep going, I have the sense that it ended. And probably, really, where it ended was in Richmond, before our paths diverged.

If our paths do cross again sometime…I’ll give her the biggest hug. I’ll be so excited to catch up. In the meantime, I wish her all the best and only the best, because that’s what she deserves.

Sometimes we reach the end of a path—or the end of a story—and that’s it. We have to let go. We can’t always know what happens next.

We have a primal need to know, but sometimes we have to let go.

We can, however, keep the journey close to our heart. Appreciate what we did have the chance to discover.

We have a primal need to know, but sometimes we have to let go.

This past weekend, I was chatting with a lovely lady I know. She shared with me that she’s retiring soon. She worked in her role about seven years. In her line of work, seven years is about the right amount of time, she told me, to come in, make a positive difference and then welcome new energy in. Seven years—sounded about right to me.

Sometimes The End comes too soon, and sometimes, we know to expect it.

Letting go can be hard. Coincidentally, I spent seven years in San Antonio. And four years in Richmond before that (unless you count the college years too—then, eight.) I love adventures, and exploring. Today, I love New York.

There are times, though, when I feel a pang for a place from before. In San Antonio, something I miss, of all things, is my local grocery store, and a lady who worked at the deli counter there—Miss Jennifer—I’m sure I’ve mentioned her to you before. I knew her since Grace was a baby…appreciated our weekly chats, which ranged from deli meats to grace (lowercase G grace)…and every now and then, usually on Sundays, wonder how she’s doing.

I hope we catch up again someday. Just like with my friend from Richmond, I’d give Miss Jennifer the biggest hug. And like moms everywhere, I’d show off how much Grace has grown, and Anna too.

What happens next?

Stories are like memories—not so much about what…or where…or when…but who.

Whatever happened to that person I knew so well?

Luckily, paths can cross, diverge and meet again. There’s always the possibility for sequels—in literature, and in life.

“There have been great societies that did not use the wheel, but there have been no societies that did not tell stories.” (Ursula K. Le Guin)

Photo credit: Pixabay

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Like what you just read? Then check out Melissa Leddy’s newest short fiction e-book, “This Is Just a Story.” Fun, timely and thought-provoking.

18 Signs You’re Home

Earlier this week, I was at my neighborhood Hannaford, a regional grocery store chain in upstate New York and New England. Anna was sitting in the shopping cart, munching on Goldfish (contentedly, but not for long), while I zipped us up and down the aisles, finding what we needed and tossing everything in the cart. Clementines, green beans, tortillas, red enchilada sauce, macaroni and cheese (always macaroni and cheese).

Stanton, the girls and I have been living in the Albany area for six months now, and after these six months, I have a pretty good feel for this grocery store—where everything is, which cashiers are fastest, the girls’ new favorite deli meats (who knew Grace would discover she loves salami?).

I was feeling more and more “home” every day. Then in the soup aisle, I recognized a familiar face: one of the pastors from our church. “It’s great to see you,” I told her—and it was.

One of the hardest things about moving to a new city is not knowing anyone yet. Not having friends, or people you can turn to for doctor recommendations, or any sort of community—yet. So for me, that morning at Hannaford was special, in its extraordinary ordinariness. 1) I knew my way around the grocery store aisles. 2) I bumped into a new—dare I say—friend.

I was home.

Here are a few more signs, friends, that you’re home.

3) You have new local favorites at “your” grocery store. These days, I can’t imagine not having Against the Grain Gourmet three-cheese frozen pizza, which I discovered at Hannaford, in my freezer, or Dominick’s Gourmet Pasta Sauce in my pantry.

4) You have usual orders at some favorite local stops: your neighborhood coffee shop, the pizza place, the deli outside your office building. You don’t need to study the menu before you walk in or call ahead; you already know what you like.

5) You know where the light switches are, and which lights they’re for.

One of the hardest things about moving to a new city is not knowing anyone yet. Not having friends, or people you can turn to for doctor recommendations, or any sort of community—yet.

6) You have some tried-and-true “things to do” with out-of-town visitors. We’ve been lucky that already, quite a few family and friends have come to visit us in our new hometown.

We’re still learning the ropes, but we feel pretty good about taking summer guests to the nearby Five Rivers nature trails and TwisT ice cream shop; folks in fall to one of the many beautiful surrounding apple orchards; and winter travelers to the New York State Museum downtown for a ride on the historic carousel.

We have yet to experience spring, but look forward to the annual Tulip Festival in Washington Park and whatever else may be in store.

You have some tried-and-true “things to do” with out-of-town visitors.

7) You’re home when you have a driver’s license and corresponding license plates for your current state.

8) And when you can enter your ZIP code at the gas station from memory, rather than consulting a Post-it stuck on the back of your credit card.

9) You’ve figured out other logistics: your primary care physician, your kids’ dentist, your older daughter’s dance studio, your younger daughter’s library story time, an auto repair shop you can trust (thank you, Broadway Auto Clinic!).

10) Your wallet contains membership cards for some of these places (e.g., the local library, fitness center, figure skating club).

11) You can get around without needing to Google Map every move.

12) A place’s roads are cool symbols of local culture, I think. I see a lot of Vermont license plates in my community, reminding me that the border of the Green Mountain State is just an hour’s drive away. Along with these license plates come bumper stickers with sayings such as “Eat, Sleep, Ski, Repeat” and “Go Vegan.”

Back in my San Antonio neighborhood, on the other hand, I saw many Nuevo Leon license plates (Nuevo Leon is a state in Northeastern Mexico, about 250 miles from the Alamo City). In my seven years there, I’m pretty sure I never saw a “Go Vegan” bumper sticker in South Texas. 🙂

Your mental pictures have readjusted.   

You can get around without needing to Google Map every move.

13) You can chat in a semi-knowledgeable manner about local life. For example, I was happy to pass along to another “new-to-here” mom that kindergarten registration is happening now, which I had heard about from my dance studio mom friends. It really does take a village.

14) You have new local websites to check in on (www.timesunion.com, www.alloveralbany.com, New York State Writers Institute).

15) You have a feel for the local lingo. When people tell me they’re going “downstate,” I now know they’re referring to New York City—which is worlds different from “upstate” (although there seem to have been conversations about what exactly “upstate” entails). And in winter, when neighbors mention they’re spending the day at “Maple Ridge,” I know they mean the local ski ridge as opposed to the local park of the same name.

16) You know your mail carrier and UPS guy. And they know not to ring the doorbell around 2 p.m., when your toddler is napping.

17) You’re stocked up on gear. By which I mean, I haven’t owned a pair of snow boots since before age 22, when I graduated from the University of Richmond and then spent the next 11 years in Virginia and Texas. Neither has Stanton. Thanks to L.L. Bean, however, we’ve got new winter gear, and we’re prepared (hopefully!) for everything from snow shoveling to sledding and snowman-building this season.

Your mental pictures have readjusted.

18) Stanton, the girls and I were lucky to have a wonderful holiday season, and I hope you did too. We spent Thanksgiving in Texas with his family, and Christmas in Pennsylvania with mine. We got to catch up with lots of loved ones—share happy times together—everything was great, and very special.

Late on New Year’s Day, we got the girls to sleep. We had just driven back to Albany that afternoon. So after the past few weeks of holiday traveling and several rounds of bedtime stories, we were alone together in the living room.

We got comfortable on the couch. Stanton opened a bottle of Saratoga lager. I had my evening cup of tea. We turned on an old episode of “Parks and Rec.” Lamplight glimmered across the TV screen, and on the beer bottle.

Stanton stretched. Sighed. “It’s good to be home,” he said.

It made me happy to hear him say that.

And I agreed.

couch

Photo credit: Pixabay

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Like what you just read? Then check out Melissa Leddy’s newest short fiction e-book, “This Is Just a Story.” Fun, timely and thought-provoking.

11 Types of People You See at Airports

Post-Thanksgiving, I was standing in line at the Dunkin’ Donuts in the San Antonio airport. It was about 5 a.m. on a weekday morning, and the long line comprised mainly holiday travelers like me.

A yuppie-looking couple (he was wearing the latest North Face jacket; her hair was blown out and stunningly styled at, yes, 5 a.m.) near me was debating whether or not they should continue waiting for their order.

“I mean, how long does it take to make a breakfast sandwich, really?” she asked him.

He seriously considered her question, then shook his head in defeat. “We’ve been waiting a while now.”

She tapped a stacked-heeled foot against the floor. “We may just need to take a hit on ten dollars. Our flight’s already boarding—I just heard the announcement.”

“Yep, I guess so…”

I exchanged glances with the older, sleepy gentleman in front of me. I just want some coffee, our eyes communicated to each other.

The couple power-walked over to their gate, while my Dunkin’ Donuts line inched closer to the register.

In that moment, I realized there are some reliable “types” of people you see at airports. Here are 11 of them.

1. The Couple Still Getting to Know Each Other. Like my yuppie friends above. I have a theory, based on zero scientific evidence and years of people-watching, that the fewer complete sentences couples speak to each other at 5 a.m., the better they know each other.

2. The People Who Just Want Coffee. In their un-caffeinated state, they aren’t interested in deep questions like, “How long does it take to make a breakfast sandwich?” They don’t want to make small talk with the other people in the Dunkin’ Donuts line. They are about 15 minutes away from a caffeine headache. All.they.want.is.coffee.

I have a theory, based on zero scientific evidence and years of people-watching, that the fewer complete sentences couples speak to each other at 5 a.m., the better they know each other.

3. The People Still Wearing Pajamas. On the other extreme of The Couple Still Getting to Know Each Other, The People Still Wearing Pajamas could not be bothered to put on clothes at 5 a.m., let alone comb their hair. This type literally rolled out of bed and arrived at the airport.

During my most recent travels, I saw two children wearing pajamas—one at the Chicago airport (a plaid flannel set), the other in Albany (theme: Disney princesses). OK: They’re kids; they’re tired; I get it. But adults? Come on now, folks. Why not change into some clean (yet still comfortable) “activewear”?

airport-2-12-5-16

4. First-Time Parents Flying With Their Child for the First Time. I feel for these folks, because I was them once. This type of airport traveler is laden down with baby gear: car seat; stroller; baby carrier in case the baby isn’t feeling the car seat/stroller combo that day; packed-to-the-max diaper bag; sometimes a Boppy pillow. Often, I let them know I’ve been there, done that and assure them everything will be OK (after I’ve had some coffee, of course).

5. Parents Traveling for the 100th Time With Their Kids. The more-seasoned moms and dads bring two main things with them: an iPad and a party size bag of something crunchy (Veggie Stix is a popular choice).

6. The Pet-Obsessed. At Baggage Claim in Albany, I watched a middle-aged woman speak lovingly to her tiny dog, who looked comfortable in his faux-fur-padded pet carrier. Another lady, with her own canine in tow, stopped to ask Lady No. 1 how her dog had done.

“Oh, he always does well,” she replied. “We have a house in Boca, and we fly back and forth all the time.” Her husband joined them, his arms full of luggage, and she greeted him by snapping something like, “What took you so long?”

The pet-obsessed: Consistently patient with the four-footed among us.

The more-seasoned moms and dads bring two main things with them: an iPad and a party size bag of something crunchy (Veggie Stix is a popular choice).

7. College Students Returning to School After Break. Like The People Still Wearing Pajamas, College Students Returning to School After Break more often than not also opt for sleepwear rather than “awake-wear.” A noticeable difference, however, between these two groups: The coeds bring books with titles like “Capital in the Twenty-First Century” and “Environmental Communication and the Public Sphere” onboard as their carry-ons.

8. Business Travelers. Business travelers can get a bad rap for being self-absorbed—in their phones, in their 24/7 work, in their airport VIP lounges. What I appreciate about them, though, is that they are used to traveling. Thus, they take up minimal time and space navigating through the security lines. They often come prepared with noise-canceling headphones, which means they don’t glare at your kids when little Emma and Aiden have their inevitable meltdowns. Unlike…

9. School Sports Teams. The letterman jackets, the athletic-striped sweatpants, the selfies featuring team-logoed caps and the starting lineup flashing the “hang ten” sign—school sports teams in airports tend to make themselves comfortable, and make a bit of noise.

10. Grandparents Who Just Visited With Their Grandkids. You overhear these older folks talking about how wonderful it was to see “all the kids.” Their heads almost touch as they lean over together, scrolling through pictures on their phones (and, sometimes, clicking through their actual cameras). They’ve been together a long time—weathered life’s ups and downs—and aren’t bothered by long fast-food lines or Baggage Claim delays. They just saw their family, and they’re HAPPY.

11. Soldiers Returning Home. Every once in a while, I’m privileged to witness a uniformed military man or woman reuniting with their family. The look in their eyes—the gratitude, the joy—the all-encompassing embraces that follow. Even the least sentimental among us, I think, feel a twinge in our hearts when we see such a sight—soldiers returning home.

They just saw their family, and they’re HAPPY.

There you have it, friends: my 11 types of airport travelers. Which ones did I miss?

Photo credit: Pixabay

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Like what you just read? Then check out Melissa Leddy’s newest short fiction e-book, “This Is Just a Story.” Fun, timely and thought-provoking.