“I take pleasure in my transformations. I look quiet and consistent, but few know how many women there are in me.” Anais Nin
A week ago, it was your birthday and we sat at a cafe and ordered bowls of chicken noodle soup. You propped your elbows on the table and tilted your head. Eleven and so very adult like. “Tell me, what’s new? What’s going on with you?” you asked.
It’s November, when the rest of the world falls asleep and dogs clamor for their dinners an hour too soon, because dusk and darkness come earlier than they did just last week. The world sinks into the cozy embrace of thick sweaters, warm broths and roasted dinners. It’s cold winds rattling window panes and wood fire smoke puffing from brick chimneys, thick black curls against the gray sky.
It’s the last dry leaf twisting free from the branch and catching flight.
November is the beginning of the end, the slowing down of my calendar, the nesting before a winter of something new, always, even if only in my soul.
What’s going on with you?
November is going on with me, I wanted to say, but instead, I offered a small shrug and a smile. I think I sighed and talked about work and longing for the vague promise of an off-season. Because, what could I say to you? Oh, nothing. Oh everything. Oh things I don’t even quite understand yet, because, it’s November and I’m settling into whatever is yet to come.
In the mall, we wandered through a store with work by local artisans. Looking at a display of landscape photography, you told me you think you’ll be a photographer someday, “like you, only with more travel photography.”
Ten minutes later, you told me you’re also considering being a chef. Or an veterinarian who also runs an animal shelter. Then you asked me, “what do you think? What should I be?”
I think, when I was eleven, I wanted to be teacher, or a musician, or an athlete, or an author.
I think that, seventeen years ago, I was working in an alumni office, collating, stuffing envelopes, helping plan Homecoming reunions, writing for the alumni news and updating a never ending online database.
Thirteen years ago, I was answering phones and managing a front desk. I was carrying your brother and prepping for my first semester of grad school, two great unknowns.
Ten years ago, I was a writer with small children. My first story was published. I had just graduated. I was going writer’s conferences and author retreats. Also, ten years ago, I started working more hours at a hotel, to help when your dad was out of work. I wore a name tag and checked people in or out, I stood behind a desk and daydreamed.
Eight years ago, I picked up a camera.
And, I think that none of these things define me or explain me, that there is more in me yet to come, to be, to do.
So, what do you think? What should I be?
I think, in this lifetime, you will have dozens of Novembers to let the old go and prepare for the new.
“Yes,” I said, and you looked at me curiously, then laughed.
“Okay, I’ll be yes.”
While you giggled and shook your head at me, I could only think, how perfect that would be, my November birthday girl.
It’s the last leaf letting go, embracing the wind that will carry it onward, the only direction we can ever go.