“Coming back together, again, for the first time.”
– Melissa Salmons (Teleplay Writer, The Irresistible Blueberry Farm)
The Irresistible Blueberry Farm is not the type of film I gravitate toward. It aired on the Hallmark Channel and that is just not my scene. But, I was sick that day… curled up in a quilt on my couch and channel surfing with zombie-like enthusiasm. The movie had just started as I flipped past, catching a fleeting glance of actress Alison Sweeney. I flipped back.
I like Alison. I started watching Days of Our Lives while at university, out of curiosity, because 3 or 4 times a week I would get stopped around town while strangers exclaimed how much I “looked just like Sami on Days of Our Lives.” I have been a fan ever since.
Alison or not, I couldn’t find something else I wanted to watch. I wasn’t in the mood for anything I recorded earlier in the week and perhaps, at that moment, I was feeling too poorly or complacent to even check Hulu, Netflix, or Amazon.
In the story, Ellen has everything she’s ever wanted. She has a loving family. She’s a successful attorney in New York City. She’s in a fulfilling relationship with a handsome man from an upper-crust family who is running for political office. She’s had no false starts. Ellen’s grandmother passes away and her final wish is for Ellen to deliver a letter to a gentleman in Maine, an old suitor from childhood. Of course, nothing goes as planned. Ellen falls through an ocean dock and is rescued by a good-looking stranger (This is Hallmark, after all.), learns some surprises about her grandmother, and is forced to face that maybe there really was a false start in there somewhere.
My choice certainly wasn’t a masterpiece. It also wasn’t a waste; so much so that I bought the Kindle version of the book, The Irresistible Blueberry Bakeshop & Café by Mary Simses (not my normal reading material) – only to discover, despite similar sentiment and a rather faithful retelling, the teleplay one-upped the novel by anchoring the story in a crossword clue with a hidden meaning:
“7 Letter Word: Coming back together, again, for the first time.”
And… no, the answer is not “reunion.”
The moral of Ellen’s story is that it is possible to be content in life, happy even, and still be living in someone else’s skin. It’s the classic “be true to yourself” trope. As a book lover and someone who majored in English Literature, I’ve encountered it over and over again. But this time it stuck with me.
I have reached a point in life where I need to begin planning where I go and what I do next. You see, I never planned to be a mom. I certainly didn’t dream of being a single mom, but I live each moment of my life for my boys. My own plans were derailed by an unplanned pregnancy at age twenty and, while there has been a large amount of pain and struggle in my adulthood, I am now content – happy even. Just like Ellen.
For the last 22 years, I have done everything for my boys. The driving force behind all my decisions was how to best support them. Every move. Every job. Finally earning a college degree at 39. But, my boys are no longer boys. They are young men who will be 22 and 17 this year. The empty nest is imminent and I spend a lot of time looking at myself in the metaphorical mirror and asking, “Who are you?”
I have been living in someone else’s skin for so long. I suspect who I am is an odd mishmash of the carefree white African tomboy and the woman forced into hyper-responsibility long before she was ready. I don’t have the answer – yet, but I have faith that I’ll figure it out.
I will always have my boys, but this is my moment and I’m coming back to myself, again, for the first time.