Ten years ago, at the age of thirty-four, I decided it was time, if I meant it in my own head, to be a writer. The Globe and Mail, which bills itself as Canada's National Newspaper, has an open section called Facts & Arguments where anybody with an opinion and an email account can submit a piece, and as I'd revered the publication since a friend of mine from high school had an older sister who lived in Toronto and interned at the Globe, I screwed up my courage and wrote the essay. It was about weather.
Of all the monumental changes I experienced upon moving from my home and native land to my adoptive state, the weather was the biggest. The patterns here are, I wrote then, are rather Old Testament, and this week I remembered why I think it so. We're on our ninth consecutive day of triple digit temperatures, and it doesn't promise to abate for the foreseeable future. During several weeks before this, it has been around 98, so big dif. It's roasting before lunch and blistering at dinner and still bloody hot at midnight.(So to you Northerners who say with certitude, "But it cools down at night," I say, not so much.) When I haul my butt out of bed to run at 6:30, it's still sweating weather. And even though I know saying bloody hell it's hot makes it worse, when the kids and I were slogging across the Target parking lot yesterday afternoon, we (okay, I) broke the rule. It just comes out.
After thirteen years I know that in a few weeks the kiln will be replaced by tempestuous skies and then by one of a breathtaking blue I did not know existed before I arrived in Fort Worth in October of 1997. That's the time of year when my sinus cavities fill up and my eyeballs hurt. Still, with the help of the right over the counter meds ("Get a good decongestant" was my second-best advice when I became a Texan, only second to, "No matter how hard it's raining, never stop under an overpass") autumn here is an 80-degree, yellow-leaved wonder. Never mind sweaters and cold pink cheeks; a girl can rake her leaves here and get a tan at the same time.
So I wrote the piece, obsessively edited, sent it, and waited. The Globe's webpage said if I didn't hear from them within three weeks, I should assume my article had been rejected. When the twenty-first day arrived, I decided it was good that I hadn't told anyone, not even my husband, about my submission. I took my toddlers to our usual Friday afternoon playdate and talked about preschools and diaper rash and decided I'd tried and failed but at least now I knew.
We drove home across Interstate 20, and my Canadian car's thermostat told me it was 43 degrees Celcius. I half-expected the road to spontaneously combust before my eyes. Once back in our air-conditioned silo, I walked into the bedroom where our answering machine, complete with cassette tape, was blinking. "Hello, this is the Associate Editor at the Globe. You submitted a piece--"a lovely piece", I distinctly remember her saying--and we'd like to publish it. We'll pay you two-hundred Canadian for it. Call me back at...."
I jumped up and down with glee. My husband called five minutes later from the airport in Charlotte. I'd gotten published, I said. He was understandably confused, but happy for me once he figured out what the hell I was talking about. So I was published. It's a divine word. I had congratulatory calls and notes from friends, many of whom had not, clearly, believed I had it in me. Nor did I, of course. A couple of nights later, I had a lovely dream.
I was riding my bike in a way I remember feeling when I was eight or ten years old. I rode up a beautiful path into an elaborate building. In it was a formal cocktail party, and men were in tails and women in gowns, holding flutes of good Champagne. I rode around them, and they smiled at me and said hello, as though I belonged there.