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.

February 16, 2010

It’s all going to turn out beautifully

This photo of us was taken in May 2009, at a bar in the Jordaan neighborhood of Amsterdam. It was very late at night, and we were there with a Dutch friend, in one of our favorite cities, drinking beer in a snug, dark little bar with nary another American in sight. I love this image because of the happiness it captures. We were both fully thrilled with where we were and what we were doing, and it shows.


Valentine’s Day has never been a big deal in our little family. We usually mark it with a good meal out—it’s a bright spot in the long tax-season winter, especially when it falls on a weeknight, since John usually doesn’t get home until 10 or so on weeknights. An exception is made on Valentine’s Day, though, and his office empties out around 7, all the accountants hurrying home to their tax-widow spouses. We usually hit a local BYOB Italian place for some good catching-up conversation over a bottle of cabernet and a long, comforting meal.

This year, of course, Valentine’s Day was on a Sunday—the one day of the week that John doesn’t go to the office. We slept in. He made breakfast: waffles with strawberries, fresh turkey sausage from the indoor Green City Market, mugs and mugs of coffee. We ate at the dining-room table by the windows, turning our newspaper pages, watching the dog watch the turkey sausage.

I did the dishes while he did some work. We went to Bed Bath & Beyond to buy new pillows, an outing that we were both pretty pathetically excited about. (No need for a dozen roses; a new pillow will suffice!) I went for a run in the cold sunshine. He took a nap. I finished a freelance project. A quiet, good, peaceful day.


We had reservations for a five-course meal, paired with wine tastings, at a local winebar. It felt decadent, going out to dinner on a Sunday, and the two hours we spent eating figs and goat cheese and brie/potato soup and lobster gnocchi and short ribs and pepper beignets and oatmeal risotto were pretty damn enjoyable. We talked about upcoming visits from friends. We compared work stories. We reminisced about travels past and dreamed about travels future. There was a lot of talk labeled “future.” We laughed and smiled and rolled our eyes at each other a little, that particular brand of gentle exasperation that comes after so many years together. He didn’t like the white-wine pairings. I didn’t care for the short ribs. We both wanted the lobster gnocchi to go on forever.

Seated next to us was a foursome made up of two couples. When we got up to leave, one of the women, a young blond with a round, cheerful face, said, “How long have you guys been together? You seem like you’re on your second or third date.” A high compliment, for sure, and we told her we’d been married for eight and a half years. “So what’s your secret?" she asked.

“No kids yet,” John replied with a grin. And, hey! It turned out that the other woman at the table was pregnant. But she also had a good sense of humor, so no harm done. I added, “We do things together, and we do things apart. I think that makes a difference.”

There was some more small talk, and then our coats were buttoned, our gloves pulled on, and as we turned to leave, the blond girl said, very earnestly, “Whatever it is you two are hoping for, whatever you’re dreaming of…it’s all going to turn out beautifully. Like the most beautiful work of modern art you can imagine. It’s going to turn out beautifully.”

I don’t know if this person was drunk, or if perhaps she says this to everyone. She seemed sincere, and her tablemates weren’t fazed. I, however, was teary-eyed, and oddly buoyant-feeling. We walked home in the dark icy air, arm in arm, to our new home, closing in on our mid-thirties, going on nine years of marriage. I suspect we were both fully thrilled with where we were and what we were doing, and it showed.

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February 10, 2010


It’s the only word I can think of that describes how I feel during January and February. I am not sad, really, nor am I depressed. I don’t feel an unrelenting blueness for days on end. But I do feel saddish on some days… a little melancholy, a little like there’s a dark cloud overhead, a weight. It starts after the New Year, and I expect it to clear right around March 14, when daylight saving time begins. Because then, then, when I get home it will still be light out. And that feels like a key.

There’s the winter darkness, and there’s John’s absence, too. I’ve been married to a CPA for more than eight years, so I know the drill come tax season. Nothing is surprising about it. I’m a person who enjoys alone time, but still, there’s a lot of alone time this time of year, and a lot of inflexibility around John’s job. I suppose the best part is that Friday nights truly feel like “date nights”—we go out for dinner and talk and laugh and catch up, and it’s special, somehow, in a way that isn’t often the case when you’ve been married this long. So thanks for that, tax season, I guess!

I turned 34 a few weeks ago, and I took this photo of myself on my birthday. That week was a good one—weeknight drinks with friends, a fun dinner downtown with John, shopping, blond brownies homemade by Mom. I made a concerted effort to focus on the good stuff. I felt happy about myself, my new age, what that new age will bring.

Our days can’t all be presents and brownies and nights out, obviously, but sometimes life does feel very run-of-the-mill, doesn’t it? The routine can be stifling. The same bowl of cereal, closet of clothes, walk to the el. The same issues at work. The same commute home. Unlocking the door, turning off the alarm, leashing up the dog for her walk in the dark. Struggling against eating the whole box of Triscuits before heading to the gym. Home again, cooking dinner, washing all the dishes. Maybe watching TV, maybe doing some editing, then “The Daily Show,” shower-floss-toothpaste-moisturizer-bed. The same thing the next day.

I don’t want to wish away time, even dark, wintry time. This is the only February 10 of my 34th year that I’m going to get. So lately, I’ve been trying to notice the small flares of brightness and beauty in each day, because they’re there, and they deserve to be savored. Once I start thinking about it, it’s not hard to find them. I may try recording some of them here. Yesterday, a really heartening and cheerful conversation with my doc during my checkup. Homemade chipotle mac-and-cheese at lunch. Stella spying a dark cat running across the snowy sidewalk, her ears pointed straight up like antennae. The neighborhood greystones glowing in the deep silent snow. A mug of peppermint hot cocoa after dinner. There may not be a lot of light to illuminate the good things at this time of year, but the good things are still there.

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