Tuesday, November 1, 2016

November First Observance

Whew. The past month has been something else. I feel the weight, weariness, and relief of having successfully completed another write31days blog challenge. Behind the scenes, I've also navigated numerous challenging interpersonal circumstances on top of the high-heel-wearing foot injury.

Today is the first day I haven't had a blog post topic planned in one month. I woke up shortly after five a.m., though, to re-read my essay submission for the Glamour Magazine essay contest. I checked the word count to make sure it still fell within the prescribed range and filled out the submission form. Then I pasted the essay into the online form, hit submit, and snuggled back under the covers.

As I fought the need to get out of bed and ready for work, I thought about the significance of November First, and how this is the 25th anniversary of that day.

I've written about this anniversary before, and I suspect I'll write about this day many more times in my life. Longing, sadness, and a dollop of adventure swirl together to make the day stand out in my heart's calendar. At forty-one, I can see more clearly what an important milestone it is. It's the first before-and-after marker of my young life.

To recap, I was a fifteen-year-old who was moving away from the only home she knew. I was leaving my friends and family. I was leaving ballet, tap, and jazz and the Nutcracker Ballet. I was leaving my neighborhood the character that loomed large in the story of my childhood.

The moving van was scheduled to come that day while I was at school. What I was not prepared for was learning that my quiet, stooped little grandpa passed away a few hours after the moving van pulled up to my house. Now I was leaving my beloved grandmother, a days' old widow, all alone.

I keep asking myself, "What does this remembrance mean for you this year?" My answer: it was the first time that I encountered numerous life stressors simultaneously, and that I walked through that difficult time with grace and courage as a teenager. It taught me about my strength as a young person and what I was made of. The forty-one-year-old me is proud of that young girl.

It also makes missing my grandmother and my best friend, Melissa, feel more palpable now than at any other time of the year. It takes me back to those days of saying goodbye, and then saying goodbye again, after our departure was pushed back for my grandfather's funeral. I have been friends with Melissa for 28 years. I am proud of the way we have stayed in touch across many, many miles. I love that we get to be mothers to our children at the same time.

I think of how proud my grandma would be of my writing pursuits. I have a cherished circle of super fans, but my grandmother would be the president of that club. She believed I was a writer before I did. She planted that seed in my DNA with her love of words, storytelling, and writing. Then she nurtured it with encouragement and endless conversation about it.

What I submitted to Glamour Magazine is the hardest, most truthful story I've written yet. It has primed the pump for other stories to come, and I know she would have read it and exhaled loudly. She would have placed her hand over her heart, and exclaimed, "Now THIS is going to give me something to think about for a little while, my little darling."

I appreciate that for just a few minutes in the process of writing about that sepia-toned time of life, I can conjure her as if she's in the room with me. That is the power of writing, and why I can't stop--even when I'm weary.

Handsome Wayne K. Steele, my paternal grandfather.

My grandmother, Maxine, is the woman on the right in the first row. My grandfather is in overalls behind her.

Wayne and Maxine with Steven, before my dad was born.

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