The third year

The ceiling at Not-Marshall-Fields

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 Even though it’s not there anymore, and it’s been replaced by the department store company I work at now, I have thought about my mom a lot with this new venture.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.

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You can’t blog about that

Cluttered already!

I spent the weekend getting to know my roommates a little better and setting up my new room. Christina took me to a couple stores to get some things for my room as well as bedding and towels to use until I can get my stuff from back home. She loaned me some shelves to use in the bathroom, and just something as simple as setting up my every day hair products (yes, plural — what?) and shower stuff in there made me feel more at home. Christina and John helped me put together these cool cube shelves I have always wanted and finally now own. Bonus: they match the small assortment of furniture I have stored in Caldwell.

There was a moment Sunday evening when I had a mini freak out. One second I was feeling really proud of myself for getting so much accomplished and then a moment later I was in tears, wondering what the hell I’m doing in this city with no income, familiar faces, family or a plan. It was a little overwhelming. But it passed; talking to family and friends helps these spurts of loneliness and uncertainty immensely.

Temporary bed

I haven’t really taken the time to define success or failure in this venture, and I think it’s really doing a number on me. Who knew I liked stability this much?

I’ve been saying that the best case scenario for me being out here would be landing a job editing a sitcom, TV show or film, or else doing public relations for a nonprofit I really care about. Failure, I kept joking, would be running out of cash and having to hitchhike to Ohio in the dead of winter. But really, there’s a lot of middle ground in there that I am not accounting for. Working in retail isn’t failure, it’s what’s going to keep me afloat for an undetermined amount of time. I’m doing okay, even if I don’t always feel like I am. I’m working hard toward my goal, which for now, is just staying here. Being in Chicago. I’ve gotten a lot done in two weeks, and it’s been a lot of fun.

Home of the five dollar Uggs!

For example, today I found a pair of new Uggs for $5. I was walking back from the Red Line on Belmont toward a bus stop and saw a store I thought might have some clothes I could wear to work at the department store. They didn’t, but they did have furry boots! I used to think Uggs were hideous, and as you can imagine there was a witty pun somewhere in my insults of them. But I’ve since changed my mind. I’d never pay full price, but you really can’t walk away from a pair of designer boots for a price less than Walmart’s crappy version of them.

The department store has a strict dress code of black tops, bottoms and shoes. You can wear a different colored blouse or other shirt under something else black, but that’s about it. Christina was nice enough to lend me some clothes and today I found some cheap but nice looking stuff.

Today I filled out paperwork at a temp agency for a one-day gig I mentioned before. It turns out I’m not allowed to blog about that, either. We’ll see how much they pay me for the day and then we’ll talk. At least I found out which show I’ll be seeing taped. It’s not that exciting, trust me.

Sooooo comfy

Moving to Avondale

Tomorrow I move out of my aunt’s mom’s house and into my new roommate’s home/my new home. I’m really excited, even though “moving” is going to consist of putting my clothes and shoes BACK in my car and taking a drive down to Roscoe Village/Avondale. The rest of my stuff remains in Caldwell and my bed is still at my brother and sister-in-law’s. Think a full-size bed would fit into a mini van? Because renting a U-Haul in December is going to suckkkk. My dad can’t help me caravan my stuff here until after Thanksgiving, when his school break is. It’d be nice to come home for a few days, but we’ll see what I can take off from work.

Speaking of work, I did my training today. On that note, there was a small thing in their employee handbook about blogging, and so, from now on I’ll be referring to them as the department store. It’s never a brilliant idea to blog about where you work, even if I’ve been guilty of it in the past.

I’ve been sick as a dog since Wednesday night but I’m finally starting to feel better. That made today’s training pretty horrible, and for some reason we weren’t told to take a lunch break between 8:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. Maybe we were supposed to ask, but I didn’t want to look like a slacker my first day and whine about taking a break.

Next week, I get to be an audience member for a taping of some talk show (NOT Oprah) as the result of my answering some Craigslist ad. I don’t know anything about it other than it’s about women’s issues and they needed a studio full of ladies. It tapes Wednesday from 8 a.m. – 6:30 p.m., but I get paid minimum wage to chill out there for the day. I fill out paper work Monday morning.

I had an interview at Old Navy, but I think they were a little discouraged when I told them I’d just gotten on part time at another store. In any case, they said they’d call yesterday but they never did.

I miss home, but I’m glad I’m here. I am trying not to rely too much on Christina and Liz, the only people I know here, but lucky for me, they both seem very willing to show me around and help out when they can. Christina’s already got me straight on how to buy a CTA pass, where my nearest bank and Target are, where to get my dry cleaning — should I ever be able to afford a luxery like dry cleaning. Someday, you guys. Someday.