“All ballplayers are superstitious,” he said, shruggingly.
I was looking down at the rabbit’s foot — a keepsake of his father’s he’d inherited at some unknown-to-me juncture — and a pit formed in my stomach. Tears burned my eyes. I blinked, trying to keep my composure. I’d found the rabbit’s foot placed on top of his cell phone. He’d been waiting for a call back from a company he’d been interviewing with.
Mr. Magpie and I had been married less than a year, and he’d graduated from his MBA program, decided to move on from his first start-up (a line of ready-to-drink cocktails — incidentally, a fantastic idea as this was just around the time Bethany was launching SkinnyGirl and cocktail culture was burgeoning amongst the yuppy set thanks to Mad Men, but regulations hamstrung him), and started applying for jobs in the interim. There are few displeasures in life like the agony of interviewing for a job when you really, really want one: you’re putting yourself out there, on the line, time after time, and people are telling you, “Nah, we don’t like you enough.” It’s hard to see it any other way when you make it through multiple rounds. You start to question yourself, ask whether there’s some previously undetected, repellant aspect of your personality that’s holding you back, wonder whether you shouldn’t just take a joe job in the meantime. And the misery of the waiting game: you think you’ve crushed one round of interviews, and then you sit in agony for a week, wondering when to follow up, or if you should even follow up? And in the meantime, there’s only so much you can do day after day. There are only so many job boards to look at, so many coffees to have with friends of friends and former colleagues to advertise yourself.
It had been a rough couple of weeks. Mr. Magpie was smart, hard-working, and highly qualified. He had an excellent resume. And by God, that man can charm the pants off anyone. He’s endearing, kind, polite. He’s the kind of man who will run after you to let you know you’ve dropped your glove. But it’s true what they say: finding a job takes about 6 months. You have to find the right opportunities, you have to hone your self-pitch, you have to be patient. I knew he was frustrated, but we didn’t talk much about his feelings. I knew he’d find something if he kept at it and just sort of glossed over the turmoil he must have been going through.
On that particular night, I’d come through the door and blabbed about my day. He hadn’t offered much of an update on his own, and I hadn’t asked. I steamrolled right into plans for dinner, and then — that’s when I saw it. The rabbit’s foot. Placed delicately, thoughtfully on the top of his phone, a signifier of the intense internal rollercoaster he was clearly riding solo. A symptom of a discomfort I’d not taken the time to identify, much less help him tend to.
I can’t think about the rabbit’s foot too long or my voice goes wobbly and I can’t swallow. In part, I think, because of the sweetness of the gesture: the boyish superstition. In part because it reflected just how dearly, how desperately he wanted this particular job to work out. And in part, too, because it reminds me that I have a long way to go before I’m the wife I hope to be: there have been periods of unintentionally callous behavior — not stopping to ask, not pausing to inquire about how he’s feeling. Mr. Magpie is strong and even-keeled. He’s not a crier. Little gets him down. But the rabbit foot reminds me that still waters run deep, and there’s a rich emotional tapestry weaving and unweaving on the daily.
When we packed up our car and cleared out our house to leave Chicago for New York a few weeks ago (the photo above taken a day or two prior to moving!), I noticed, with pause, that it was Friday, October 13th: an inauspicious start for my superstitious, former ballplayer husband. But as we drove out of Chicago, crammed like sardines into our SUV with 13 bags, minimagpie, and Tilly, Mr. Magpie said: “This is gonna be good.”
There is something symmetric that I can’t quite put my finger on about these two experiences: they both center around Mr. Magpie, superstition, our evolving husband-wife dynamics, and a major milestone in our lives.
It was not, actually good, as Mr. Magpie offered hopefully, in the short-term, but it has turned out very good in the slightly longer term. And though I recently pledged to abandon my whining whilma ways (see #turbothot and the ultra kind comments!), I thought I’d share, over a series of posts in the next week or two, the way our lives turned upside down and the way we turned them rightside up, and include the items — useful and aspirational both — I uncovered while on this journey. Actually, I hate the word journey. It’s been marred by too much self-help, express-your-inner-chi kind of baloney. So let’s say — the items I came to appreciate while on this…what shall we call it? Adventure? Too Pollyanna. Pilgrimage? Too religious. Peregrination? Yes, peregrination. It suggest just the right amount of…meandering…that was involved.
Today, to kick off the story of our peregrination, I’ll share the most useful stuff for wrapping up our lives in Chicago and hitting the road:
+Wunderlist app. To share lists of to-dos between Mr. Magpie and I and keep various tasks organized in their right category.
+The audiobook of Tina Fey’s Bossypants, which kept us very, very entertained for many miles of Pennsylvania.
+Monogrammed, open-top canvas totes for the trip, to keep minimagpie and Tilden’s stuff organized but easily accessible in the car. (You don’t want to have to worry about unzipping a suitcase or something when you need something.)
+I know it looks super clunky and kind of like it might house A/V equipment, but this soft-sided cooler is top of the line. (Read some rave reviews of it here.) Mr. Magpie had really, really wanted to bring some of the goodies in our freezer — quart bags of the chicken and beef stocks he’d lovingly made and stored for future use, a whole duck (don’t ask), and some kielbasa sausage, a outlandishly delicious specialty of the Polish community in our heavily-populated-by-Eastern-Europeans neighborhood. We debated for some time as to whether it was feasible or not, and in the end decided not to bring them with us, which was good since we wouldn’t have access to our freezer for about two weeks (!!!) instead of the two days we’d anticipated. But, still, if we had brought that stuff, we were excited to keep it cool in one of these.
+A lifesaver for keeping our clothing organized. I can’t rave about these enough. They compress clothes very well and I love that you can see everything very easily when you’re rooting around in a suitcase.
+A home-care pack for the few days we thought we’d be without our stuff (the movers would take a few days longer than us to arrive in NYC): a sponge, two sets of cutlery, acrylic cups (super important that they were shatter-proof and dishwasher-friendly!), laundry detergent, dish soap, a few trash bags, and these scissors. Scissors, people! YOU NEED SCISSORS. Don’t forget the scissors unless you want to undo all of your boxes with a key!
+Snacks. We ate a lot of these, though my favorite guilty pleasures are probably Cheetohs (I know…gross), Cheez-its, or Haribo. (If you want to send me something that will endear you to me forever, it would be this.)
+Spare bags. I can’t tell you how this happens, but things kind of…explode and multiply when you’re living out of a hotel room. Or you find yourself wanting to make a quick run to the grocery, or to tote just a handful of things from Point A to Point B, and these just always get the job done and fold up into a tiny square.
+Two sets of towels (these are the best, and 40% off right now!)
+A seat protector for Tilly. I didn’t care for ours — I would 100% get this one next time around, because she would have loved to have something to lean up against on both sides. She would sit awkwardly with her back against the back of the seat, as far as possible away from the seat edge, which basically meant she was sitting on my lap for hours at a time. But it’s great to have something for her to sit on after coming in from a muddy romp around whatever service station we were stopping at in middle-of-nowhere Indiana.
+A corkscrew (we’ve always preferred the wine key to any of the fancy automatic contraptions) and Wine. Wine. Wine. We packed a few bottles so that we could enjoy a few drinks in our hotel room when we got into Cleveland on Night 1 and NYC on Night 2. You WILL need them after a long day of driving.
+For minimagpie: this travel crib has been a must for us even still in our apartment — she has her crib set up but we have workmen doing something outside (tuckpointing? I don’t know what that is, but it feels right for the situation) of her bedroom window every day from 9-4, aka during prime naptime hours, so I have on occasion set this up in our bedroom, which is a little quieter. I love it because it’s SO EASY to set up. You literally push down in the middle and it springs into place. Our one gripe with it is when you pack it up, it’s designed so you sort of wrap the mattress insert around the folded-up crib to hold everything in place and it’s next to impossible to do by yourself. Also, this travel bottle drying rack and these rice rusks were clutch. I bought mini a few new toys on the trip and would bring them out strategically. Weirdly enough, she loved a plastic measuring spoon we stole from my mom’s house the best of all — but these chewbeads and this Fisher Price classic were also lifesavers. She also loves — LOVES — this book; I must have read it to her ten times a day. I much prefer the rice rusks because they truly dissolve — a lot of the others leave this gross sticky paste that in turn gets all over everything, caked onto hands, and glued to hair. BUT MAINLY, YOU MUST HAVE THESE WHEN YOU TRAVEL. So, so helpful when you’re changing a diaper in the backseat, or there’s a blowout, or you’re staying with friends and don’t want to gross them out, or you are in a hotel room with nowhere to put soiled diapers but in the unlined trashcan…
+A good sense of humor.