november fourth

The other day, I sat at the edge of the beach, at the edge of a dock, at the edge of the city. Sitting there, in my most favourite leopard coat (found in a tiny store in a stop on the London Tube), my fingers were wrapped around a steaming hot black coffee.

I had just come from the bank, where I set up a new account for my business. Always something to learn with this new season in life, and this banking provided yet another salient opportunity. Sitting there, surrounded by a pile of biz documents, sifting through this new phase with some kind banker humans, I realized the date- November 4th.

The fourth day of the eleventh month is a big one in my family. That’s the day my mom, sister and I landed in Toronto, almost twenty years ago. We moved here from Virginia, just outside of Washington DC. Surprising to a lot of people, my sister and I were born in the states, to a Canadian mom and an Irish dad.

After my parents split, my brave mom helped us navigate this rocky time. As a child, it was hard and tumultuous, but my mom gracefully ushered us into this new phase in life, always embedding excitement into all we did. While we decided our next moves—stay in Virginia, or go—she found the positive and built enthusiastic scenarios for whichever direction we might choose.

Over time, in became apparent that a return to Canada was the best of course of action. Citizens of the country since we were in diapers, my sister and I had visited many times since we were kids— Montreal for memories, Ottawa for relatives, Toronto for a new stage with an amazing man that had entered our lives.

So November 4th, 1997, we bid adieu to our old house, the one with a for sale sign rooted in the front yard. Still apprehensive about this new stage, I boarded a plane with my mom and sister. I’m sure in my luggage were good-bye cards, remnants of Halloween candy, and the innumerable important possessions of an eleven year old child. We arrived at the Toronto airport after sunset, met by the man who would become my stepdad.

Familiar, but foreign, the city rose up as we drove to our new home. For a kid who used to have horses at the end of her street, our metropolitan address was quite a change. Tired and confused, our first night on November 4th was quiet.

Nineteen years later, I realize the magnitude of the decision to move, the logistics required and the hope embedded in each move my mom made. As I was sitting on the edge of that dock, at the edge of the beach, at the edge of the city, I started to laugh. Positioned as I was, I was staring right across a lake that kissed the United States along the southern coast. My fingers were wrapped around a coffee cup from one of the most arguably Canadian institutions. My leopard coat was marked with a bright red poppy. I had just come from the bank, where I formalized another step in this whole endeavor to start my business, build my future and chose freedom in my life.

It was a long way from where I was on the same date, in 1997, but at that moment, everything felt exactly as it should.

 

alex kelly

public health + personal wellness