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.

November 11, 2005

Last week in church

Originally posted to Diary-X

Last Sunday we didn’t go to church in the building with the red door and the steeple. Instead, we slept in an extra half-hour, and then I suggested bagels. Ah, bagels. I am a simple woman who considers a freshly baked pumpernickel bagel with a smear of plain cream cheese and a strong black coffee to be an immense treat. Luckily I married a man who agrees, so we decided to walk the 15 minutes to our local bagel shop. “Let’s bring the dog,” John suggested. The mild autumn weather was still warm enough to allow breakfasting outside, so we explained to Moose that we were all “going for a walk! Going outside! You wanna go outside? Huh? Do you?” He considered our proposal and agreed that it was a good one.

The three of us rarely go for walks together. I know that sounds kind of strange and sad, considering the amount of walks a city dog gets every day, but dog-walking often feels like a chore (especially those early-morning strolls, which John and I take turns doing). So when Moose realizes that both of us are accompanying him on one of his constitutionals, his liquid-brown eyes light up, his bony butt waggles furiously, and he races down the stairs ahead of us, spinning in excited circles on each landing. (This is particularly funny given that 90% of the time he behaves much more like this.) A threesome walk usually means a trip to the dog beach or a ride in the car, which are both Extremely Big Events in our dog’s life.

But on this sunny Sunday morning, the destination involved breakfast. We set off around 10 a.m., stopping to admire our neighbor’s baby and to let Moose exchange sniffs with the beagle that just moved in next door. The leaves were beginning to turn color in full force, and as we walked down the sidewalk we passed beneath a row of brilliant yellow trees. The ground beneath our feet was crunchy and bright, and I stopped to pick up a particularly fine yellow leaf. I planned to carry it along for awhile and admire it. John turned around to see where I was, and he smiled. “I knew you’d be doing that,” he said, glancing at the leaf in my hand, and I smiled back. This is what it means to be married, I thought, to have a person who knows you that well. For a second I felt such overwhelming blessedness and good fortune that I could hardly bear it.

We walked under the el tracks, past the dry cleaners and the record shop and the flower store owned by one of our neighbors. We gaped at the stately old mansions and petted passing dogs. We turned on our neighborhood’s main shopping street, pausing to look in the windows of the expensive shoe store, choosing which ones we’d buy—black leather ankle-height boots for John, maroon and pink suede Pumas for me. And finally, we reached the bagel shop. John waited outside with Moose while I went in to order, remembering to pick up a “doggie bagel” from the jar by the register. Then, with our bagels and coffee and dog, we sat down on a nearby bench and proceeded to eat. Moose stood by patiently, waiting for bits of food after scarfing down his own snack. The sun was warm, and John was wearing his sunglasses, and I had on a red hooded zip-up sweater. People stopped to smile at Moose and ask questions about him. My coffee was rich and hot, and the leaves on the trees were russet and gold, and I couldn’t think of anywhere else I’d rather be than right there, on that bench, with my family. There are a lot of hard things in life, things that make me worry, things that hurt. But there are also moments when it’s ridiculously easy to forget they exist.

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