So. San Francisco.
When we arrived we got upgraded to a premium vehicle which I’m chronicling here because it’s so nice when things like that happen. (Like having your name drawn at a raffle – that never happens, right?!) For the rest of this post you can picture Dan, Sky and James weaving through towering redwoods in a sleek black Infiniti.
On the drive from the airport, California put on a bit of a show: the salty ocean air, the smell of leafy Eucalyptus, magenta bougainvillea, the red rise of the Golden Gate bridge and blue blue blue as far as the eye could see – blue Bay, blue sky, blue Pacific.
God, this place is beautiful, we kept saying.
So much happened on our trip but mostly I want to tell you about two things I thought about while I was there:
1. I thought about marriage.
I spent a lot of time with my Aunt Claire who has been married for 20 years to my great uncle Woody. And I spent a lot of time with my best friend who is getting married in May. Two women I love so very much at different points in marriage; Dan and I somewhere in between.
Claire and Woody got married when she was 50 and he was 70. It was both of their first marriages. They came to their marriage with such wisdom. Claire said before they got married many people said to her: Are you sure it’s right at this point in your life?
She told me she and Woody would say: “Are you kidding me? It’s the greatest privilege of our lives.” That is how I feel about my marriage: it is the greatest privilege to build and share this life. And James’s very existence extends from that privilege.
(For the record, I’m not one of those people who thinks everyone should get married. This is all specific to my conversations with Claire and my own experience.)
My uncle Woody is 90 now and in assisted living. When he sees Claire walk in the room, his eyes light up. They still have their same dynamic: reading the NY Times together, talking politics, talking about their great adventures, past and present. Their love is evident.
I spent the best day with Claire – driving all over the city, a long lunch and then wandering the Legion of Honor museum. Claire inspires me. She’s an entrepreneur with a well of curiosity and enthusiasm. After killing it in the business world, she’s now the mayor of her town and her knack for fostering community is a lesson in how to be. She hosts pumpkin carving parties, tree decorating parties, dinner for old and new neighbors. She takes whole-hearted interest in everyone around her. I love walking her dog with her around her neighborhood – people walk over to chat, pet her dog, or stop their car and roll down their windows to say hi. She literally stops traffic because she is so loved.
She kept looking at James and saying “Can you believe it, Sky? Can you believe you created this little person?!”
When we met them breakfast, I watched Claire – tiny at about 5 feet tall and less than 100 pounds – lift Woody from wheelchair to car as they set off to meet friends for lunch. These are the parts of marriage we don’t always think about at the beginning. I think Claire would tell you that we are lucky if we live and love long enough to experience them.
1 1/2. Then there was the wine night with my best friend that we always fantasize about when we talk about on the phone. You know the kind when you plop down on the couch with two bottles of wine and gab? When you somehow cover everything and remember how much you’ve seen each other through. And then you get a little sentimental when you realize that yet another major life event is around the corner: her wedding. And little tears of joy gather in the corners of your eyes because friendships like these are … you know. The best.
2. The other thing I kept thinking about was the different chapters in our lives.
A friend hosted a brunch for our friends and there were people I have known since I was two, a high school friend, a college friend, friends from years traveling abroad, a grad school friend, old work friends, and on.
It’s funny the way life goes – the way we pick up so many people along the way without really realizing it – and then, there they are. And then the years of friendship pile up (see caption in above photo).
Dan, James and I went to Ocean Beach. I spent so many hours on that beach when I lived in SF in my twenties. I started going after a breakup. It was a tumultuous time and the Pacific always calmed me. I fell in love with the ocean there – with its mystery and wild, changing beauty.
Dan and I didn’t leave San Francisco on our own terms – we were in financial dire straights when Dan got the job offer in Calgary. It didn’t feel like a choice. It felt desperately necessary. But you know what? It turned out to be ok. (I don’t want to be too Pollyanna about it. It took me a long time to get settled into our life here–there was a lot of letting go, some tears, and some doubt at the beginning.)
And that’s what I thought about back at Ocean Beach on that blue bird day. How life doesn’t always go as planned. How it will never be all figured out. How that breakup seems like another lifetime now. How Dan and I had been on that beach so many years before watching whales breach near shore and we had no idea how it would work out – how his visa would pan out, how we’d afford a place to live, how we’d get jobs that would sustain us- let alone that someday we’d be visiting from Calgary, Alberta – and now there we were with our son.
Life is just wild and crazy like that.