Last year this time, I thought I’d try it again, but the beginning of #NaNoWriMo happened while I was on a honeymoon. Who knew two people could sleep so much when relaxing on a boat!? Suffice to say, I was focused on other things and could never really get my mind on starting or continuing work on anything major last fall.
So here we are.
I think I’m in, but I’m not positive. In a few short weeks, I’ll be undergoing a surgical procedure. I’ve never been under general anesthesia. I’ve never even had a broken bone. I simply have no idea what to expect (and I do know anything is possible). For sure I’ll be completely out of commission for a few days, and then managing pain for an undetermined length of time after that. What effect will this have on my writing momentum? What about the fog of painkillers? What about the energy required for healing? It’s all a guess.
But as I type this, I feel a sense of rebellion against the “play it safe” stance I’d normally take. I don’t want to be deterred from starting, just because the finish looks so uncertain.
So that’s that.
I’m in for #NaNoWriMo this year. My month might be more like two weeks, but no matter what, starting is the first victory.
For years I went to bed early. As an elementary school teacher, I had an extensive morning routine involving exercise, prayer, and a 30-minute commute. I arrived at work by 7 a.m. – well before the kiddos who often wanted to share household news as soon as they said good morning. Because I require 7-8 hours of sleep to function well, I observed a strict bedtime of 9 p.m. My friends knew this and generally avoided calling past 8 or 8:30. From time to time an acquaintance would call too late, so I turned off my ringer at night just to play it safe.
That is, until Daddy admitted his health was fading.
It was shortly after Mama died. His prostate cancer wasn’t a secret, yet he seemed to be doing well. But y’all know how (some) men like to hide shit. Reality didn’t exactly align with appearances. I told him in no uncertain terms, he wasn’t allowed to die any time soon. His reaction, some mixture of exasperation and acquiescence, was disconcerting. He said okay because that’s what I wanted, but he hinted there were no guarantees.
I began leaving my ringer on at night.
My parents eloped when they were 23. As a little girl my mother offered me several thousand dollars if I eloped, too. I can’t remember what prompted her to mention it at that moment. The only possibility that comes to mind is Princess Diana’s wedding, grand affair that it was. I was too young to have heard about the bride’s family footing the bill for weddings or other such traditions. I’m serious, she said. I shrugged. I tucked it away for later.
As a teenager I thought I’d get married shortly after college. My 20s came and went and I remained single throughout. I was grateful, honestly. I hadn’t met “Mr. Right,” and by the time I hit 30, I’d evolved into a completely different woman.
My dad did his best, as much as one can wield control over such things. He held on another three years. My phone rang just before dawn. I sighed awake, already shaking my head. No good news comes at this time of day. The voice on the other end was Daddy’s but softer in tenor. I instantly recognized my uncle, Daddy’s identical twin. Did I call at a bad time? he asked. I pressed him to spill the news. Daddy was en route to the hospital. He wasn’t breathing on his own.
I arrived at Grady Hospital eight years ago today. I didn’t see Daddy that morning. Nor any other since. Following my uncle’s lead, we both left without seeing his lifeless body. I wanted to say goodbye, but I did not want the image of death burned into my memory. I had made that mistake with Mama.
Toward the end of my 30s, I met my future husband. When we spoke of marriage, I told him I didn’t favor a big wedding, and, in fact, eloping was fine with me. I was down for a courthouse ceremony, or a small gathering on the beach. I don’t think he believed me the first few times we discussed it, but the seed Mama planted nearly three decades earlier bore fruit. I had never planned or even considered a “fairy tale” wedding.
A few months after my 40th birthday, Blue proposed.
I remembered the brides who cried in the days leading up to their weddings. I vowed not to be one of them. As spring melted into summer, we played around with wedding dates, sizes and locations. Nearly every Friday from June through August, we considered jumping in the car and heading to the courthouse. In September we settled on an intimate October affair.
If we had eloped, we would’ve escorted each other during the ceremony. But the venue we selected encouraged something a little more traditional. I decided Daddy’s twin, my “DNA Daddy,” might be the perfect choice.
He later told me it was one of his greatest joys.
During our ceremony, we invoked ancestors and loved ones who were not present, and that, of course, included my parents. Although neither were present in body, it was a loving comfort to hear Daddy’s voice and witness his smile through his brother.
As a little girl, when I was about to do something fun, I wouldn’t feel any excitement. Like we’d be preparing to go to Six Flags. SIX FLAGS of all places, where the roller coasters were great and your stomach did all the flips. And I was like, cool, with the shoulder shrug and everything.
And it wouldn’t be a fake cool. I’d seriously have no emotion attached. It was an event that would take place at some point. And I was glad to go, but just slow to warm. Like the idea needed to marinate or something.
But suddenly, something would click. Usually the night before said event or even the morning of, it would finally sink in:
I’M GOING TO SIX FLAGS!!!!
And I’d be excited and smiley and all the things you often associate with excitement. And it would be just as much fun as I knew it would be, and I’d be just as overjoyed as anyone else might be.
I’ve always been that way. I can’t pull up a single memory that contradicts this. It’s like the darkness before the dawn and suddenly it’s daybreak and you can see the beautiful morning.
So we’ve been wedding planning off and on the past couple of months, and it’s been like that. It’s been cool, and some parts have been fun and others stressful, but all of them busy. And I’d see wedding this, or bridal that and it was always just words. Words talking about someone else. And because I know me (and all my close friends know me), no one bothered to ask if I was excited yet. It was simply too early.
Lately I’ve been trying on wedding gowns and some of the consultants are gushy and intrusive and I have to Heisman them: Hey, I’m not a gusher. I’m reserved. I’m not going to faint and scream and fan girl at this dress and I’d love it if you didn’t either.
But now, it’s sinking in. When I read something that says the bride or bridal, it’s referring to ME!
I’M GETING MARRIED!!!!
I’m getting excited! And right on time, today my aunt asked, “are you getting excited yet?” And I had to giggle because now I can say YES!