All weekend I’ve been following, via Instagram, the progression of a friend’s weekend in San Francisco; images of dinner at Nopa and “what felt like a 10 pound almond croissant” from Tartine.
We moved to San Francisco on August 17, 2002. Abbott was 17 days old.
Months before I was pregnant, Alexi signed a contract for a one year radiology fellowship, to begin at the completion of his residency. (A fellowship is a prerequisite for most radiology jobs.) Flying in for the interview, I felt my pulse quicken at first glimpse of the city. The light was different; we were discernibly farther south. We had come to love it there on prior visits. Over burgers at Zuni Café and as we walked the streets, we exchanged looks that communicated, “How could we not want to take the fellowship and spend a year here?” While Alexi was at a meeting one evening, my friend Kathleen, living in Oakland for an emergency medicine fellowship at Oakland Children’s, took me to eat at Chez Panisse in Berkeley. The experience, the meal, her generosity and vibrant company are still vivid in my memory. At the end of the evening, she drove me back into San Francisco to my hotel. As I looked at the glimmering city we were headed toward, it all seemed like a dream.
The weeks in Seattle after Abbott was born were joyous. The cloud of fatigue was lifted by the romance, the newness of our circumstances. San Francisco represented the one-way street we’d started down. Once we got there, and a little more time passed, it seemed we had indefinitely traded in our earlier life that included sleeping through the night, time to ourselves, and uninterrupted conversation for one of accumulated fatigue, middle of the night feedings, and fussy, inconsolable, desperate hours, offset only by overwhelming love for our son that overtook us with startling ferocity.
The first few months, if, serendipitously, Abbott took a nap without being held, I’d decide between eating lunch with both hands free, washing the dishes, or taking a shower. If I had extra time, I might pay a bill or work on the last of my graduate school coursework I had yet to complete. When Abbott woke up I’d try to figure out what we were going to do in the remaining hours until it was time to pick up Alexi from work. I’d most often settle on a long walk. I wasn’t sure how else to entertain a newborn, how to fill the time, how to navigate an unfamiliar city and get used to spending so much time at home.
The picture above was taken on our second wedding anniversary; our first time alone together after Abbott's birth. We were nervous about leaving him, perhaps ridiculously so given that he was in the hands of our friend Kathleen, an emergency room pediatrician. We sat in the intimacy of Café Jacqueline for hours, sharing an exquisite bottle of champagne, feasting on fresh butter lettuce salads, dense onion soup, wonderfully light gruyere soufflés, and a shared dessert. It brought us back to what we – the two of us – felt like.
Our life with a baby in San Francisco had very little in common with our prior visits. We didn’t walk the streets holding hands, or linger over amazing meals. Instead, we hurried through dinner to get Abbott to bed. We adjusted. Everything got easier with time. Over the course of that year, we found ways to incorporate what we truly loved into our new life. Every Saturday morning, we loaded up Abbott’s stroller with goods from the Embarcadero Farmers’ Market. Abbott went on his first hikes, in a backpack, as we explored Marin County on the weekends. We ate Morning Buns at Tartine.
I look back and think, “What were we thinking, moving with an infant?” or, “How brave and adventurous we were!” depending on my mood. I like to think the spirit of that year has been infused into Abbott; that he’s picked up a thing or two about taking a chance and learning to adapt.
October 28, 2000; a dozen years ago today. We had no idea what the future would bring, but we knew we wanted to go into it together. In that move to San Francisco with our infant boy, and all the years before and since, we've shared and experienced so much. I like to think there is just as much mystery yet to come.