I'm writing this from the United lounge at SFO, midway through the last leg of my trip here to witness and celebrate the marriage of one of my oldest friends, Emily. While the average age of brides is now something like 29, Emily is in her mid-30s, and I was 25 on my wedding day. It seems odd to me that Emily is now crazily, happily married, a wife, and everyone hopes, will one day sooner rather than later become a mother. Similarly, looking at my own life from the perspective of my college friends, most of whom are single, it seems crazy that I have been married nearly 11 years, with three kids. It is the life I want.
That's why I am surprised how much I enjoyed shedding my skin of wife, mother, writer, caretaker, laundress, and baker to resume a life that I'd be miserable in now: tooling around San Francisco with my single, college friends, drinking too much, telling and retelling stories of past nights of drinking, drama, relationships, work, and life, laughing racously. I've never lived the single life in San Francisco, but the City is irrevocably tied my childless former self. I've read M. Sasek's book This Is San Francisco to my children a million times and while part of me wants to take The Boy to see the sea lions on the rocks, the up the hills and down the hills, part of me also wants to keep San Francisco to myself: quiet corner cafes with outdoor seating and a glass of wine shared with friends, hauling butt up and down the hills, never really going to museums, and fresh flowers everywhere, all the time.
I re-explored the City yesterday, ending the day at the Buena Vista Cafe for Irish coffees at sunset. As the shadows fell against the Argonaut Hotel, drawing me closer to now, I was hit by melancholy. I spent my first ever night in San Francisco at the Buena Vista after moving to the Bay Area in 1998. I spent my last ever night as a SF resident at the Buena Vista before leaving in 2002. And plenty of nights in between, sitting at the bar watching delicate glass cups thick with creamy foam come out on trays, the plate glass windows facing the bay fogging up from the heat inside. It is so tied up with my memories of San Francisco that if you told me tomorrow that only tourists go there, I wouldn't care.
San Francisco: I'm glad I knew you when.
My plane is boarding now, so I'm going to say good-bye to SF, have a nap on the plane and wake up in Chicago, ready to see my babies, my husband, embrace the snow-rain-cold that is a Chicago spring. I'm ready to go home.