Finding home category archive
We are back home in San Francisco, where the redwood trees bend and sway in the cold foggy wind, and the heater is on. From a high of 97 degrees in Spain to a high of 60 with a foggy wind chill. We have lived here for nearly 7 years, and it still surprises me to wear boots, a jacket and a scarf on a July afternoon. I am so glad to be home. But I wish we had more of a real summer here.
I have a post about traveling with toddlers in the works, and another about our last days in Spain. I’ve also been writing about women, work, family and the balance I’m finding. And I have an idea about a series on raising bilingual children, and would love to interview or have guest posts, so if you or someone you know grew up bilingual, or is raising bilingual children, I’d love to talk.
That’s all for now. Time to put this jet-lagged family to bed!
In the mornings we walk. We go out into the mild California winter, where the sun warms us despite the cold, and the sidewalk is still strewn with the colors of fall. We walk down the hill, kicking stiff magnolia leaves, brown and shiny as new pennies. At the crosswalk, we play peek-a-boo around the side of the stroller as we wait for the bus to grind to a stop. Then we cross, staying on the sunny side of the street until we get to 24th Street and our first stop, the bakery.
Inside there’s another mom ahead of us, and two blond-haired little ones who nibble on a cookie from the deep seats of a double-wide stroller. “What’ll it be today?”, a young guy with a scruffy goatee asks, and I get a sweet baguette for dinner, and a plain croissant to share with Basil. I pay, then back my way out of the bakery, maneuvering the stroller awkwardly through the glass door until a kind woman in a red coat pulls it open for me, smiling at Basil.
After a quick stop at the drug store for pacifiers and light bulbs, we head up the street towards the park. It’s just two long blocks, but with the hills around here, and the warm winter sun, I’m sweating by the time we get there. I strip off my scarf and jacket, brush the croissant crumbs off Basil, and we plop down on the soft ground to play. The park is full of children today, as it often is at this time. A helter-skelter collage of strollers line the fence. Both swings are occupied, and there’s a child waiting. The teeter-totter bounces back and forth with the energy of four year-olds. A few persistent pigeons peck at the crumbs left behind by small hands, skittering away when a small boy runs by. Basil takes it all in, crawling towards the pigeons, then stopping to watch a little blond girl who toddles toward him.
Mornings like this are why I now love where we live. I can walk to do most of my daily errands. The bank, post office, grocery store, coffee shops, and more are all less than a 10-minute walk. Basil loves being out, watching people, breathing the fresh air. I get exercise, and don’t have to worry about driving. I love it.
But a year ago I was aching to move. Certain we’d leave the city by summer. Be in a place with more space, a bigger yard, maybe hiking trails nearby. But since having Basil my perspective has shifted completely, in ways I didn’t expect. Instead of more space, I’m happy with fewer belongings, and being able to walk everywhere. Instead of a garden, I have my pots of herbs off the kitchen, my flower pots on the front steps. Instead of hiking trails, I have these mornings in the neighborhood, Basil kicking his feet as we walk, our bellies full of fresh pastries.
What do you love about your neighborhood? Has your feeling about where you live ever radically shifted?
The days blur together right now like the reds and yellows of a watercolor left in the rain, Tuesday’s becoming Saturday in a stream of rocking, diaper changes, cooing and nursing. JJ is off work for another two weeks, and some days we are still in pajamas at 11, Basil lying peacefully in bed between us after fussing all morning. Today, he slept for 2 hours on his daddy’s chest, arms hanging down JJ’s sides like the limbs of a stuffed monkey draped around a child’s neck. He’s a good baby, wiggly and full of life when he’s awake, insistent when he needs something but usually quick to soothe once we figure out what it is.
So good that I’m working on my thesis again! Monday we went to apply for Basil’s passport down the hill in the Castro neighborhood post office, and then I stayed to work in a cafe nearby while JJ brought Basil home for a nap. Being out for just a few hours, making thesis progress, then having the walk home to myself: it feels like forbidden fruit, in these demanding first months of caring for a newborn.
The city is bursting with spring, every scrap of dirt not covered by concrete or ornamental rocks crowded with new growth. Walking up the hill to our house, I see a tangle of last year’s alyssum, wild sour grass, fennel and bright orange California Poppies compete for space in pots and patches of garden. A calla lily in full bloom stretched up through the center of a low hedge, reminding me of a giraffe reaching for tender treetop leaves, or the birdlike neck of my son, straining for milk.
I am determined to move out of this city. At the same time, I am determined to enjoy it now that my mind is made up. And there is little I enjoy more than taking walks with the camera, snapping pictures right and left, getting ice cream with JJ, or coffee, or appetizers at the Ferry Building.
Our first apartment was down by the baseball park, and we often walked along the Embarcadero to the Ferry Building and downtown, taking pictures of the bridge or the old fireboat house, talking about technology and education, or dreaming about the future. “I’ve always wanted to live in San Francisco” I said, “and here we are”. It was so right for that time in our lives.
Now, we’re in our fourth house here, counting a short-term sublet last summer. Six years have gone by, with one away in Barcelona. We’re in a quiet neighborhood, and our house is the bottom floor of a 3-story Victorian, with views of buildings climbing the hills behind, and the brown peaks of the highest point in the city. It’s very quiet for the city, with easy parking, a small back deck, and a garden down below. The neighborhood is clean, and the shops are delightful. There’s a cafe 3 blocks away where I like to go work on my dissertation, or just write.
It’s the nicest place we’ve lived so far. But this summer, I’ve finally realized that as much as I’ve enjoyed living in San Francisco, it’s not home. I am ready to grow roots, but not here. I need to be somewhere that’s warmer, wilder-feeling with more open space. Somewhere where we can own a house, paint the walls any color we want, garden and know it’s ours. I’m not a city girl, it turns out!
So we are talking about moving. And I am trying to make this feel like home in the meantime.
It makes me wonder: When did you feel like you’d really put down roots somewhere? What made you feel that way? Was it children? Buying a house? Getting a job you loved? Something else?
Fluffy, pink, clouds of petals blanket the trees in our neighborhood right now. On windy days there’s a carpet of petals below, light pink and fluffy like cotton candy. We woke up early Saturday morning after a late night with friends, walk down to 24th Street. Bought strawberries, artichokes, fresh bread, and a fennel bulb at the Farmer’s Market. Got my favorite chips and yoghurts from the grocery store, morning buns from the neighborhood bakery. I handed the groceries to JJ, took pictures, trying to capture the candy pink, wild feeling of the trees juxtaposed against the meticulously painted Victorians, all brightly contrasted with an eggshell blue sky.
To be repeated.
A Sunday walk at the beach. Blue sky, then swooping fog. Sand dollars on sand, white dotting brown. Dogs of all kinds. Walkers in sweatshirts and coats, hoods tucked against the wind. A little girl with a red shirt and long, blond hair, climbing a sandy cliff hand over foot like a monkey. Skateboards seen from below, skidding along a roadblock at the edge of the cliff. Water cold like snow, turning toes red. Sand pipers skittering along the shoreline, feet a blur like hummingbird wings. Deep breaths of salty air. A lone tree, high on the cliff.
This week, sunny afternoons, moments out on the patio, feeling the sun warm my legs, listening to birds twitter in the redwoods. Seeing the first clouds in months, high in the sky. Thinking how until you live in a place where there’s fog, and you watch it burn off (or not) day after day, you don’t know the difference between fog and clouds.
Today, a lazy morning outside before driving south to see friends (me) and play soccer (JJ). Hearing sea gulls in the distance, the grinding gears of a bus in the valley headed up the hill, the clank of tools in the construction next door. Smelling fresh air, and relishing in the feeling of bare feet and sun on my hair, outside my own house on a Saturday morning.