By Mary Duggan
Wednesday, 10 AM: Annie and our friend Ron unload the “Duggan Sister Experience” onto the dock at the Merchandise Mart and then head to the 8th floor to find our booth and get our badges for the Beckman’s Handcrafted section within the Chicago Market. All Annie wants to do is race home to her Joey. She has been up all night encouraging Joey to breathe, please breathe, and eat, please eat.
Thursday, 12 noon: Annie and Mary and Clare stand around a metal examining table at LaPar Animal Hospital, watching and weeping as the vet puts our enchanting little Ragdoll cat and guardian of almost 15 years to sleep. Joey gone – from sickness to death in less than 10 days. Some three weeks after losing our beloved Tabby, Seamus, Joey’s best friend and champion of many years. We ache with grief.
Thursday, 1 PM: We go home, clean Joey’s litter box for the last time, throw all of Annie’s urine-stained bedding in the washer (I think Joey must have done this when I was loading her into the carrier) and then stare at the phone numb and waiting for the vet to call with the autopsy results. A physician, stunned and saddened, wondering what went wrong, has offered a free autopsy and biopsies. An autopsy: unthinkable and unimaginable just a few days ago, but now somehow necessary for all of us to heal.
Thursday, 2 PM: Joey has been gone from our lives for 2 hours and we are discussing the shocking results of her autopsy. We have survived part one, the information from the autopsy, and now we begin the ten day wait for the biopsies to provide I don’t know what. There are new images that we do not want to think about. Is this all part of that concept everyone calls closure?
Thursday, 3 PM: Annie sets down the phone, looks across the table at me and says I have to work or I will lose my mind. So we go to the Merchandise Mart and set up our booth and never stop working until today, some six days later.
We are so tired that we’re nauseous. That is what a show, wholesale or retail, does to every single artist every single time. You assemble a singular and stunning booth showcasing your wares. You stand and explain and educate and sell and endure insults and ignorance and accolades. You do it indoors under lights too bright with unforgiving concrete beneath you. You do it outdoors in wind that sometimes becomes a microburst or a tornado and you stand shivering in snow in early October and you get rained on until you are soaked to your kneecaps. You sometimes sell big and sometimes hardly get noticed in the crowd. And then you disassemble your perfect booth and pack it into a van and drive to your home which might be across town or across many state lines. You are an artist. These shows are absolute bread and butter essential and they kill you every time.
They also do something else; especially when you are hurting so badly that your breath is very shallow from the pain in your chest. Artists create beauty and wonderful ragtag community. Community and beauty are the one two punch that heals if you can keep your broken heart open just enough to let the light in. (more…)