The Purple of Life

She told me to hold on to the purple in my life.

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Location: Chicago, United States

I'm a 37-year-old editor and city dweller, wife and mother, moderately liberal and radically optimistic. I would fill my perfect day with a cup of coffee and the Op Ed section, a flea market and the playground, a run along Lake Michigan, a walk through the neighborhood with my son and my greyhound, a Cuban dinner and a bottle of red with my husband, and an evening flight to some European city. I wouldn't be picky about which one.

January 15, 2004

Big pretty bow

Originally posted to Diary-X... and since many of these entries are now gone, I'm glad this one was cached.

Even when I was young lass, keeping my handwritten journal in a spiral-bound notebook (my keyboard fingers cringe at the thought of all that pen-holding), come January I would always write a “year in review” entry. I don’t know if it gave me a sense of accomplishment or completion or if I’m just a sucker for tying things up with a big pretty bow, but whatever my reasons were, I’m not one to let traditions die. (Okay, I sort of let the tradition die last year with a very vague wrap-up entry, but this year I’m resuscitating it.)

Last January, I thought 2003 was going to be sort of a jogging-around-the-track kind of year… no major changes, just bobbing along, doing my thing. A year later, to that I say: ha.The year 2003 started off, truth be plainly told, kind of shitty. John disappeared into the black hole of tax season, and I was left holding the leash of a very troubled dog. I discovered that it was quite difficult being Murphy’s single parent five days a week. There were some days when I dreaded coming home from work…dreaded facing the barking and the inappropriate object-stealing and the growling and the threats of biting. I turned 27 last January, and even my birthday was somewhat depressing. Let’s move on.

In February, we saw David Gray and Richard Shindell in concert, which I now realize were the only two concerts we saw all year. John gave me beautiful pink roses for Valentine’s Day. We spent Sunday mornings at dog obedience classes, ending up with an exceptionally well-trained (although still mentally disturbed) dog. At the end of the series, Murphy could sit, stay, leave it, lay down, shake, come, roll over, and circle. However, he never quite mastered “stop being so freaking aggressive and just chill the hell out.”

In March we took Murphy to a $400 behaviorist who essentially told us that once a dog bites, there’s no guarantee he won’t bite again. We attended a wedding (the only one of the year) in which I had to deal with the Blonde Posse, and the U.S. attacked Iraq, which freaked me out more than I expected it would. Many Chicagoans were caught up in peace protests, even going so far as to close down Lake Shore Drive, one of the city’s main arteries.

In April, tax season ended and spring came to the city. Wintry pale people began emerging from their apartments, squinting in the sun. (This is my favorite time of year.) I saw the Joffrey Ballet perform at the Auditorium Theatre downtown. John and I participated in inquirers’ classes at our church and decided to officially join the Episcopal Church.I spent a long weekend in early May visiting Rachael in Washington, DC. We dutifully looked at war memorials, visited some free museums, and ate a hell of a lot of food. I am blessed to have friends who live in interesting cities and know how to make killer caramel fudge brownies.

In the spring and summer of 2003, we started thinking about housing. As in, when did we plan to enter the ranks of adulthood and buy one? Our talks about the future were spurred on by our landlady’s announcement that she was considering selling her condo, our apartment. In June, we snooped around in the suburb of Oak Park, and came to the conclusion that we just weren’t ready to leave the city yet. We started spending more time on our rooftop deck, just in case this was the last summer we’d have one.

July was not a good month. We went on an ill-fated Fourth of July camping trip in Michigan (sadly, the only camping we did last summer), during which Murphy morphed into a really scary, snarling, Cujo-like dog. We finally, painfully realized that we couldn’t keep him. One thing led to another, and euthanasia became our only option, as we and our vet saw it. We mourned. We struggled to adjust to life without our dog. It was a help to leave on our vacation, a trip out west to Colorado for some hiking and relaxation. God’s country out there—I’ll return. Even now, when I’m feeling sort of wide-eyed and frenzied, I think of our little whitewashed cabin in Twin Lakes and instantly feel better. Just knowing it’s out there, nestled among the aspens in all its peaceful, mismatched-furniture beauty, is a good thing.

August. The Great Home Search ensued when we discovered that our apartment was being sold. In the span of three weeks, we looked at Chicago houses that we could afford, realized we didn’t want to live in the ghetto or in a tiny brick ranch 45 minutes from the lake, decided to buy a condo instead, toured about fifteen of them, made a bunch of spreadsheets, stared at said spreadsheets for hours, and finally made an offer on a two-bedroom condo in Uptown, which was accepted. I didn’t sleep much during August.

September. The Move. I was stretched thin and stressed. We considered adopting a retired racing greyhound. We said goodbye to our old neighborhood. The Cubs went to the playoffs.Two of my best friends had babies in October, prompting me to realize, once again, that I’m not interested in spawning any time soon. I explored our new neighborhood and liked what I found. The leaves were changing. We visited the greyhound kennels and met Moose. With the aid of my delicately honed nagging skills, I persuaded John that cream-colored walls were definitely not the right look for The Home, and we painted. The Cubs did not go to the World Series, and the North Side wept.

Moose came to live with us on November 15, and we promptly fell head-over-heels in love with him. We got back into the rhythm of dog walks and met many of our neighbors as a result. November 30 marked our two-year anniversary living in the Windy City.

And December was the flu, and lots of freelancing, and Christmas shopping, and some general suckage. But my sister and her husband came to visit, and our relationship was really strengthened by that. And Moose started to become family to us. And we saw lots of family and friends and babies in Michigan over the holiday.

I don’t know how to sum up this year. Buying our first home, going to Colorado, getting to know Moose—those were all really good things. Losing Murphy was a really, really bad thing. I guess all I can say is that 2003 contained more surprises than I expected, if one can ever expect surprises. But the important things in my life—John, my family and friends, my job, my health, our church—all of that stuff remains unchanged, which is a lot more than many people can say. For that I’m grateful.



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