As it so often is these days, Nov. 11 was the anniversary of the day my mom died. She’s been gone for three years now, and that number is only going to get bigger despite my best efforts. I’m getting further and further away from her, and sometimes I’m afraid of the things I might forget. I’d planned on spending the day by myself in a strange city, letting myself be melancholy and fantastically over dramatic with my musical choices, not telling anyone here what Thursday was. Fortunately, I changed my mind and mentioned the anniversary to Christina on Tuesday night, during one of our long, gut spilling conversations. She offered to keep me busy and distracted that day, and I took her up on it.
She asked me if my family had visited Chicago; we had. What about Chicago reminded me of my mom? I knew right away it was Marshall Fields. Even though it’s not there anymore, and it’s been replaced by the department store company I work at now, I have thought about my mom a lot with this new venture. I associate department stores in general with her, but I definitely have a memory of being at Marshall Fields with her, and her buying some of those famous Frango mint chocolates. Those at least are still around, so we decided to go to Not-Marshall-Fields (as Christina so affectionately calls it, like a true Chicagoan) and buy a box. She offered to take me on a tour of the city on her day off, and gave me a book to start in preparation. I spent the next day making a major dent in “The Devil in the White City,” a fascinating book about two important men living and working in Chicago in the late 1890s.
We went on our tour Thursday morning and hit Not-Marshall-Fields. Christina kept her biting indictment of the State Street store’s current tenant (and now, the folks giving me a paycheck) to a lull, and we went on a wild hunt for this ornate ceiling Christina remembered seeing a long time ago. We couldn’t find it right away, and for a while we were afraid Not-Marshall-Fields had unnecessarily removed a beautiful Tiffany-style ceiling. At last, we found it: an interior ceiling on the fourth floor in the women’s department. It was stunning. Christina breathed a sigh of relief.
We picked up a box of chocolates on the way out the door and headed to Miller’s Pub, an Irish pub on the same block as the famous Palmer House. We had lunch and headed north on Clark to a Christina-described hipster area with a ton of vintage clothing stores. We stayed out all day and headed home just before dark.
I was too busy to really take time to reflect, but I am okay with that. It wasn’t like I was intentionally pushing down my feelings, like I’d done for two years after she died; I was just living my life on a day mostly like any other day. I can think about her when I choose. I don’t have to disrupt my life and take a whole day to be sad.
I miss her, but I really do think she’d be pretty excited about my life right now. I think she’d think it’s pretty awesome I’ll be working at a department store and getting a sweet employee discount. She’d be proud of me for doing what I want with my life.