PURPLE

I went to Green River Auto on Thursday to buy a second-hand car after my well-used red Prius emitted a new burst of squeals and screeches. There wasn’t much time before I would lose my 13-year-old companion.

My feminism regresses big-time around cars. Need to have a guy around. No mansplaining, just practical tips and suggestions that are very valuable. A friend of a friend sent me an exhaustive list of questions to ask. Lori, too, knows her way around cars, but she’s bedridden and can’t help much this time, except to recommend Green River Auto. So, for the first time in my life, I go used-car shopping on my lonesome.

The silver Prius is 5 years newer than mine. It feels safe and familiar, just like driving my own old Prius without the death throes.

“I guess I’ll take this one,” I say unexcitedly. “Do you have anything else?”

“A 2015 Honda Fit with 106,000 miles,” Scott, all red hair and blue eyes, tells me. “A good car, only it’s purple. Not too many people want to buy a purple car.”

A purple car!

Where does my mind go? Back a quarter of a century, when Bernie and I lived in Santa Barbara and met Alison Allen. She and her husband owned the beach house where we lived for over two years. Alison was one of the most beautiful women I’d ever met. She was also talented, kind, and openhearted, and after Bernie got sick, drove to see us a few times even after getting hit hard by cancer.

There was something ethereal about her, as though she had way less concrete substance to her body that the rest of us. This became especially palpable once her struggle with breast cancer began. And—she loved purple.

The house we lived in was purple, as were the Adirondack chairs on the porch overlooking the Pacific, as were the sofa and rug in the living room and the bedspread in the bedroom. I only ever saw her wear purple clothes and drive purple cars. Her hair was purple and when she lost it to chemo, she painted art on her scalp, and that was purple, too.

“Let me try it,” I tell Scott.

It’s way different from the tight, strait-laced Prius I’m accustomed to. For the first time in my life, I have a car with a camera in back and one showing the right lane as I drive. And it’s purple. It’s small, with lots of space—and it’s purple. It’s a year older than the silver Prius, $2,000 cheaper, 106,000 miles—and it’s purple.

“I’ll take it,” I tell him.

I’m so grateful when the past merges with the present. There isn’t a day when Bernie doesn’t come alive to me because of a question someone asked, because of an email or a photo, or because I stained the tablecloth at dinner. “Oh oh,” he’d say and grin. When this happens, the present becomes more vibrant than ever, as if this combination of past and present adds to the vividness of the moment.

“What do you think?” I ask both dogs when I take them out today.

Henry whines in disapproval.

“What’s your problem?” asks Aussie.

“I liked the red car,” he tells her. “It made me feel like a gigolo.”

“Purple is majesty,” Aussie tells him.

Purple is Alison, I think to myself.

I got a note from her right after she ended her life. “Life was and is the most astonishing miracle.” She loved it even as she brought it to an end, had no regrets, except for one: “I never figured out how to be of service. I think that should be a priority for everyone, how to give back for this glorious experience called life. It only makes our own life richer.”

I have it in front of me now, five years later. Naturally, both ink and paper are purple.

I have purple in mind as I ask you, kind readers, to please make a donation in order to send children of immigrant families to day camp this summer. We’ve done this for the past 3 summers and I have often heard about the big difference it makes not just in the lives of the children, who do arts programs, swim, play, and learn, but also for their parents who work hard on the farms during summer. Any parent can sympathize with the plight of having to work and no one to watch the children.

The camp is a Godsend to these families, and listen to this: The price to send 7 children to camp for 6 weeks, starting July 1, is $3,400: $525 for each of six and just $250 for the 7th. It’s a steal.

“Are you sure about these numbers?” I ask Jimena.

“Yes. This time I got a big discount because I do all the translation of the camp materials into Spanish, so we are sending these children to camp for less than half what others pay, less than half what we needed to raise last year.”

The super woman continues to do it all, raveling the web of generosity all around her. That web surrounds me all the time. A dear long-time student gave me a financial gift so that I could buy, as she told me, “a reliable car,” not something that might give up the ghost a few years from now. The sun shines, I’m healthy, and Henry, the ex-gigolo, has just deposited on my lap a disgusting, dirt-encrusted marrow bone that he dug up from the ground and brought me as a gift. What more could anyone want?

Please donate to send these children to Camp Kee-wanee, which offers immigrant children a variety of arts programs, free meals and snacks, and takes the worry off their parents’ brows. You can do that by using the button below: Donate to Immigrant Families. Many, many thanks to all of you, from the families, Jimena, and me.

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You can also send a check to: Eve Marko, POB 174, Montague, MA 01351. Please write on the memo line whether this is in support or immigrant families or of my blog. Thank you.