Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Good Morning, Fictionland

So this is how it starts: I'm out and about early in the morning, walking Woki down to the Lake. We pass the usual assortment of other dog walkers, power walkers, social walkers, and solo walkers. Most of them smile and return our, "Good morning," and it becomes a game predicting who will respond.
There is a solo walker I see from quite a distance, mainly because she is dressed in a full-body electric blue leotard, partially covered by a yellow and white tunic that billows like a silk sail around her. She is walking briskly, and her hair--her dazzling red hair--flames out behind her like a jet contrail. When she passes, she offers no greeting. Instead, her face is tight with concentration. It is not a happy look. For all the brilliant gaiety of her garb, this young woman has a world of hurt at 7:15 on a beautiful summer morning.
Or so it seems. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Fictionland. It's a fun and wonderful place much of the time, but it can be scary as well. Let's see what happens to our red-haired gal in Fictionland.
First, she needs a name. Mariah. It's got to be Mariah. Dramatic, slightly exotic, and just a touch of something Old World. She's in a hurry, rushing to catch the train, no doubt. She'll go downtown, audition for that dance part, get rejected yet again, and then....
Ah, you get the idea. This can go on and on, which is the fun of Fictionland. The scary part is that bad things will have to happen to Mariah or no one will care about her. But in Fictionland, the endings don't always have to be terrible. To paraphrase Jane Austen, stories can have happy endings as long as the characters go through a great deal of trouble to get there. And though extended time in Fictionland makes me feel as though I've spent too much time on a carnival ride, I will visit Mariah there until I know her story well enough to tell it to you.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Happy Birthday to Me

Although I do my best to keep the "all about me" factor out of this blog, today I am making an exception. Tomorrow, July 10, is my birthday. 55. Whew--how did the last thirty years slip by so quickly? Yesterday, while Woki and I were out walking, I began to think of my younger self and how I envisioned then what my life would be like now. When I was really young, before children (yes, kids age you), I never thought much beyond age thirty, but at some later point, I developed a vision for my mid-fifties. I thought we would live in L.B. or L.F. in a large, well-appointed house suitable for entertaining on a regular basis. Our three perfect daughters would live near enough to stop by on weekends. We would spend a good deal of our time at the Club for golf, tennis, and weekend parties. Our friends would host fun gatherings which we would drive to in our black Mercedes. For our 25th anniversary, I would receive a large diamond, and we would take a trip to Italy.
Cut to Reality.
Ex-husband has the Mercedes, but the two of us never made it to our 25th anniversary. In fact, for several years now, we have been happily remarried to other people. The three daughters are still perfect (well, almost) but only two of them live nearby, and I don't see enough of any of them. Parties are rare in my tiny house (at least until the incontinent cat has gone to the great litter box in the sky), and there certainly is no golf, tennis, or Club. Thank God. And thank God that I live in this beautiful town, that I have a job I love, and that I have a wonderful, considerate, and talented husband who brings me joy every day and has a high tolerance for my weirdness. I am finding my way down a path that I never expected to take, but as John Lennon said, "Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans."
I would like to think that I can envision myself at 65. Jerry and I will be financially secure enough to retire and spend our days in our favorite pursuits: reading, walking, traveling, enjoying good food and wine, and finding success with our passions for music and writing. How wonderful that would be, but what's really going to happen?

Thursday, July 2, 2009

The Perfect Day

The other day as Woki and I took our six a.m. walk, the new day's sunlight had that special coruscating quality of an early summer morning, and the warm air held the delicate scent of peonies and honeysuckle. We headed toward the Lake, both of us savoring the peace and quiet. It was still early enough that we encountered few people and even fewer vehicles, though we were privileged to see a fox emerge from the shrubbery some ten yards ahead of us. Assuming correctly that we posed no threat, the fox proceded to trot nonchalantly down the sidewalk, then disappear onto the grounds of one of L. F.'s grand mansions. I wondered, as I often do, what it must be like to live in such a place--but that's a subject for some other post.

As we continued our stroll eastward to the park and the magnificent views of Lake Michigan, I pondered what makes a perfect day. Regardless of the size of our homes, most of us have been fortunate enough to experience a day we could rate pretty close to perfect: special events with family and friends, a best-day-of-the-vacation, or perhaps just a day of freedom from the stress of work.

For me, there are a few basic criteria for a perfect day: time spent outdoors (this can be tricky in Chicago), some sort of exercise (this can be tricky anywhere), accomplishing something (perferably from my ridiculously long "to-do" list), and sharing a nice meal with family and/or friends. There are, of course, innumerable additional pleasures (chocolate, afternoon naps, good music, windfalls of any sort, etc.). But if I really distill my most cherished things, I come up with an alliterative list: family, friends, freedom, and, oh, yeah, food. Sounds like the 4th of July.