Teri Orr: The ribbons that tie us together
Sunday in the park
October 20, 2017
Though the lawn was bare just yesterday, today there is a carpet of yellow leaves. I watched them fall this afternoon – billows of wind tossing them around. It was beautiful; the leaves falling, falling, falling. And for reasons that are complicated and simple, I started to cry. Not the heaving sobs of great tragedy, just simple tears on my cheeks.
My family is fine – ditto my health. My job is good enough. The tears are not hormonal — I am long past that cyclical moodiness. I am sad and wistful and feeling seasonally ambushed. I am ready to fill soup pots with stock and vegetables and beef chunks or chicken. Ready to build a fire and enjoy the crackle of the flames, the curling smoke, the smell of cedar and piñon.
I have switched out closets and the sweaters have replaced the thin cotton blouses. The flip-flops are boxed. The boots are being polished. And I know, even though I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, and spent all the time growing up I could, twenty minutes away at the beaches in Half Moon Bay, I am a mountain girl. I have lived in the mountains since I was 18.
The fall reminds me of that first semester I left home; the first member of my side of my family to attend college. I loved my few months away in Colorado: being in school, learning everything I could – including how to demonstrate against the war in Vietnam. I had a car (few did) and we drove away every single Saturday — as far as we could while still making it back to our all-girl dorm by midnight. We took photos of each other and had to wait days for them to come back after they were developed and the prints were ready at the drugstore.
"I left a terrifying relationship, finally, after about a dozen attempts to leave. I understand fully how difficult it is to stay and how difficult it is to leave."
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There was a sweetness to it. An innocence.
I was married the summer of my freshman year in college and everything changed. I was six months pregnant the first time my husband knocked me into a wall and told me to never again to contradict him in front of his parents. We had been married seven months. And eventually after years of all that – almost seven years – I filed for divorce and ran away to this place, where it snowed in September and the leaves were brilliant and the sunsets matched them.
My two children, then aged seven and five, were confused but excited for the adventure. And the short version of the story is the kids and we figured it out mostly on our own. I worked two jobs even when they were in college. The town was very small then and we never talked about part time residents, since they didn’t exist. The working class lived in Old Town and the most successful in Thaynes Canyon.
I had some meetings this week at the Park City Library – the building had been the middle school when we moved to town. Around the trees were purple ribbons. Purple ribbons to symbolize victims of domestic violence. October is the month to pay tribute to the people, mostly women, who have lived and sometimes died in abusive relationships.
When I was editor of this paper I covered a murder in the front of what is now A Fresh Market on President's weekend: the shooting of a woman who thought she had finally gotten away; a victim of domestic violence. She was shot at point blank range, right there by the bags of salt. Her plaid shirt ripped open and her black bra exposed as they had tried to revive her. Her worn cowboy boots at the bottom of her equally worn jeans. Nadalee Noble was dressed just like me that day. Just like me.
Purple has long been my favorite color. I was born in February so it is the color of my birthstone, amethyst. The house I have lived in since 1980 was black and white for years. Then, brown and blue. Finally when the kids left for college and a little time passed and I was living alone, really alone for the first time since college, I painted the house a kind of lavender with eggplant trim. You could say dusty warm grey and a sort of plum but… it is lavender. The Purple House, as the neighborhood kids call it.
It wasn't meant to symbolize anything when I painted it. It was a color of liberation for me.
When the fall comes and I remember all the dreams I had when I was going to college far away from home and meeting new people and loving my classes, I think about That Girl. Who she might have been if she had never married so young. If she had ever finished college. If she had dated different boys. It makes me wistful to try and imagine her.
But I am here. I left a terrifying relationship, finally, after about a dozen attempts to leave. I understand fully how difficult it is to stay and how difficult it is to leave. When I see those purple ribbons around town this month I know I was one of the lucky ones. And I want anyone suffering in an abusive relationship to know you have amazing resources in this state, this county and this city. You can call The Peace House any time and you will find both answers and a safe haven. Even if they have to move you to another city or state to keep you safe. What matters is that you get the help you need. The safety you and your children deserve. It wasn't always available…but it is now. Every night and day, including this Sunday in the Park.
The Peace House is a local, nonprofit resource and shelter for those experiencing domestic violence and maintains a 24/7 helpline at (800)-647-9161. More information can be found at http://www.peacehouse.org.
Teri Orr is a former editor of The Park Record. She is the director of the Park City Institute, which provides programming for the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Center for the Performing Arts.