It's exhilarating to go into Chicago once a week. I spent most of my adult life living there (ages 19-35) and loved every minute of it. But there came a time when having kids meant moving out to sprawling suburbia. And as I drive myself back and forth every week, I know that although the truth might hurt, I'm not a city girl anymore. I would have lived in denial, thinking that once a city girl always a city girl, but a year after moving out of the city, I had an encounter with a Marshall Field's saleswoman that clarified my standing as a suburbanite.
Two months after my son was born, my parents babysat for us so hubby and I could go into the city for the day. At this time, Marshall Fields was still around and we decided to do some shopping there, a little reminiscing. I had found a cute purse that I wanted and went up to the cash register to pay for it. Hubby decided to get some air outside while I paid for my cute little purse. As the lady behind the counter folded up the bag that she had carefully placed my new purse into, she looked at me with a big warm smile, "You must be one of the people from the PEORIA bus."
I started to shake. My eyeballs felt swollen. I couldn't breath. I couldn't even speak. I shook my head in protest. "No. No. No, no NO. I'm not from PEORIA. I just moved out to the suburbs a year ago. REALLY!"
Clutching my hunter green Marshall Field's bag I spun around and raced out the revolving door, almost knocking everyone over in my path, including two small children. I ran up to hubby, on the verge of tears. I could barely speak. "I...I...she...the lady...thought...I..."
Hubby grabs my arm, a look of panic taking over his face. "Oh my God. What happened? Did you get mugged? You're shaking."
Still nodding, I somehow found the strength to get the words out. And as I said them, postpartum hormonal floodgates opened up. "The lady behind the counter thought I was from PEORIA!" I screamed.
Now hubby thinks I've gone nuts and this whole 'having kids' thing has really taken it's toll.
"SO? SO? ME? FROM PEORIA? DO YOU KNOW WHAT THIS MEANS?" My arms are flailing, the green bag flapping, people shielding their faces from me while walking down State Street.
Hubby tries his best to get a grip on what happened and where his wife went to. "Apparently, I don't...because you seem to be pretty upset and I have no idea why."
"Of course you don't know why. You're from ROCKFORD!" I start pacing around, sweating, rubbing my forehead, trying to figure out how to reverse this curse.
Hubby grabs me by the shoulder and directs me to the window. Standing under the awning he tries to understand (bless his heart). "You're gonna need to explain. Is this a new mother thing? Do we need to go home?"
"No! We don't need to go home. I just need a minute."
After a few minutes, I was able to calm myself down using the Lamaze method that I DIDN'T use during childbirth. I explained to him what it means to a 'city girl' like myself, to have been mistaken for someone from PEORIA.
My arms outstretched, shifting my feet, I revealed the secret code to him. "It means that I've slipped. I've gone backwards, not only in the world of fashion, but this is a CHARACTER issue. Going backwards in fashion implies that I'm backwards in my thinking, in my life. That I'm not up to par mentally. I've regressed in every way possible. This isn't about the fact that I LOOK like I'm from PEORIA. This is crisis! This is my wake up call. If I continue on this path I'll be old and grey and in a rocker in six months flat and there's no way I'll ever be able to catch up. I'm doomed!"
Hubby says. "Let's go for a drink."
So we left Marshall Field's and hubby took me straight to the nearest bar. Three drinks later we were both laughing about the whole thing - but for completely different reasons. And when I got home, my entire outfit, belt and all went into the Goodwill pile. Even my underwear.
But as I discarded that outfit, the truth was, I couldn't discard the reality of my life. I had been a city person and now I wasn't. It wasn't part of my character anymore. The Marshall Field's lady confirmed my status as a non-city dweller. And that hurt.
The hard thing about life is that it always changes. The good part about life is that it always changes. As I visit the city once a week, I'm reminded that it's still there. It's still going, and there's always a chance I can go back to living there and being a city girl once again.