Five years in Chicago: new kittens, embracing fall and toasting the future.

It's been five years, almost to the day, since I moved to Chicago. It's hard to pinpoint exactly how, but I know I'd barely recognize fresh-from-NYC Paige if I passed her on the street this afternoon. (And there's a good chance I'd try to shake some sense into Sunnyside Avenue Paige.)

Five years, and I think I'm closer than ever to being who I want to be. I think I might actually be an adult. I think I might even like myself. Life's not perfect, but I’m starting to see it taking shape.

Mark and I adopted new kittens two weeks ago, and they are just…everything.

I'd spotted who I wanted to take home before I even went inside PAWS, fast asleep on a pillow: Two tiny kittens wearing little, white-paper collars with their names written in Sharpie. They didn't wake up until just before we put them in the crate to go home.

And suddenly, the apartment is filled with life again. The two tiny bundles of energy — all claws, fur and sandpaper tongues — have already made themselves at home. Leaping behind the shelving unit where the TV sits, dodging wires and dust bunnies. Together, they discovered the massive hole Emaline made in the lining underneath the sofa and crawled around there, batting at the springs and punching at my rear end, until I flipped the sofa to pull them out, one by one.

Then I cut the lining away. No more hiding.

We kept Brixie's shelter name; Brix is the scientific measure of a wine's sweetness, and that seemed just about perfect. The other one, with a rap sheet that made our adoption folder about an inch thick, needed a more fitting name. We settled on River; she's named for a Doctor Who character with a free spirit and this exotic sense of enigma about her — and more than a little taste for danger.

There's a hum about this place now, even when they're sleeping. Which is often. The little water fountain is plugged in again, the constant trickle I missed so much calming me like it always used to. They cuddle together to sleep in the afternoons, with little breaks to blink at me when the floorboards creak under my feet.

Meanwhile, the weather is finally starting to cool after the most miserable summer; the windows are open and everything just feels like autumn. Better. I made my first pot of potato and leek soup yesterday, and scarves are less an act of defiance now than they are a necessary layer. The first few leaves have started to yellow, and it won't be long before they start to drift down from the trees.

So many Chicagoans see the falling leaves as an ending, or the beginning of a slog through winter. Not me. Fall is my favorite time of year. The trees shed their leaves to make room for new growth and new life. I guess that's my life here so far, too.

There were too many endings in my first five years here — sudden, jarring departures that left the wind knocked out of me, and slow, painful deaths, too. And I was content to see them as just that.

But now I get that they all led me to where I am now. And it's lovely, celebrating anniversaries, doors opened and steps forward, instead of saying good riddance or bidding teary goodbyes.

 

Mark joins the kittens and me in the apartment for good in November. We're a family.

So come on down, leaves. I love the sight of the El through the bare branches out the window by my desk. Here's to the start of a sixth year — and so, so many more falls to come.