Like Two Saplings
By: Margery Al-chalabi
About the Book
In the early 1960’s, two recently-graduated architects, from very different cultures and continents, traveled to Greece to continue their educations as urban planners. The ancient City of Athens had long served as a bridge between the East and West. Attraction between Margery and Suhail grew slowly, but irresistibly. And, at the end of their two-plus years of study, they added two graduate degrees, a marriage, and an all-encompassing partnership that would grow, evolve and deepen over fifty years.
Suddenly, at the height of their highly-regarded careers and a satisfying and rewarding lifestyle, their happy lives were upended. Suhail’s chronic leukemia had become acute. This memoir recounts the following year of dread and hope; the feverish trips between hospital and home; and the trip to Dallas for the treatment that would kill off the lethal strain of leukemia threatening Suhail’s life.
Tender and smart, Like Two Saplings is a memoir of captivating romance, a hectic year of uncertainty, ping-ponging between hope and fear—interspersed with recollections of long-ago beginnings, exotic travels and vacations, landmark accomplishments and events, and the closeness of colleagues, family and friends.
This is an unflinching look at love facing death. Filled with e-mails to family and friends chronicling her husband’s treatments, prognoses and plans, and testimonials from colleagues, family, and friends. Margery captures the intimate details of how Suhail faced death with the same courage, resoluteness and grace with which he lived his life.
About the Author
Margery al Chalabi was born in a small working class town in the Allegheny River Valley of Pittsburgh. The first member of her extended family to attend college, she put herself through with scholarships and part-time work, earning a Bachelor of Architecture degree from Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie Mellon University) in 1961. She studied at Athens Technological Institute (ATI) in Athens, Greece, receiving an MSc in Urban Planning and Regional Economics, in 1965.
In Athens, Margery met Suhail al Chalabi, a fellow student at ATI, an architect from MIT, and the love of her life. They married in 1965; returned to the U.S., and found interesting work in Chicago. Starting out at the Chicago regional office of HUD and City of Chicago, Margery extended her work on renewal and redevelopment with private consulting firms, conducting landmark work on these issues for HUD and other federal agencies; and with architectural firms planning downtown development in major cities. Suhail worked for Chicago’s two regional agencies: NIPC and CATS. Later, both worked in the administration of Mayor Jane M. Byrne, Chicago’s first female mayor. When Chicago won the 1992 World’s Fair, they collaborated on writing the City’s Comprehensive Plan, Chicago 1992. With Major Byrne’s election loss, in 1983, they began their work, together, as The al Chalabi Group; first saving the landmark Chicago Theater from demolition and restoring it; then years of work on major economic development and transportation projects.
Margery is a Board Member of The Cliff Dwellers Club (one of the group of six women first admitted) and former President of the World Society for Ekistics. She and Suhail have been season ticket holders for many of Chicago’s music, theater, and cultural events.
(2019, Paperback, 182 pages)