Seven years after I left the San Francisco bay area, I went back for a holiday. DQ had been curious about the place where she had spent the first few years of her life, most of which she could not recollect. I was ambivalent about returning to a place which held great significance to me. I had become a mother and embarked on my first job there. But going back meant revisiting the place where I had been a part of a family unit with DQ and her dad – a unit that didn’t exist anymore. I wasn’t sure if I was ready or willing to face any residual demons that might reside in the streets of San Francisco. I wrote this some years ago. The lessons are worth remembering.
For most people, taking a vacation means leaving home turf and the associated work/chores/monotony and visiting an exotic location with a hectic daily timetable of things to do. I have always felt that the act of being on holiday, which implies a state of leisure is totally contradictory to the goal-oriented touristy approach that we take when we are in a new place, armed with cameras and water bottles. An easy solution would be to take a break and visit a known place, a location where the sights are not exactly new but familiar and welcoming, with no rush to be everywhere at the same time. Our San Francisco trip fell into this category. We had lived here before, the major tourist attractions still needed to be seen but there was no long to-do list. In theory, it was the perfect holiday getaway. In practice, it was another story altogether.
We checked off the essential tourist activities including
• Golden Gate Bridge
• Lombard Street
• Fisherman’s Wharf
• Cable Car Ride
• Museum (California Academy of Sciences)
• Aquarium (Monterey Bay)
What I had on the list in addition, were multiple business meetings including dinner with former colleagues and visits to the homes of friends who still lived in the area. I also wanted DQ to try some new activities and she attempted bowling and rock climbing with different degrees of success.
While it feels like a lot was accomplished, if you look at it from the perspective of a tourist who had seven days to spend in the Bay area, there was so much more we could have done – Half Moon Bay, Point Reyes lighthouse, Sausalito, Angel Island, Alcatraz, Berkeley and Carmel… the list is endless. The San Francisco bay area is truly one of most scenic places to visit and like a gourmet meal which is delicious; it always leaves you wishing for more. There will always be more meals in the future.
The way to hold on to an experience is by savoring each tasty morsel as it rests on your tongue, not focusing on the previous such meal or anticipating the next one. At many times during this week, I had that feeling. Moments which were complete, discrete pieces of happiness, not yet falling like jigsaw pieces into the complete canvas of my life, but each holding the promise of more, if I would learn to find them.
I remember the moment we reached the top of Crooked Street after climbing up 3 steep blocks from Van Ness; and the instant before taking a picture of the Golden Gate Bridge in all its glory, framed by generous clear skies untouched by the notorious fog. Perhaps it was in the few minutes we waited for the Hyde-Powell cable car as it was manually reversed, taking bites from the decadent Ghirardelli brownie ice cream sundae when I felt light as a dandelion blown free from its stem. I was suspended in mid-air, free from the burdens of past unhappiness that had lurked in the corners of my memories of this beautiful place where I had been fortunate to live. My fortune lay in my experience of both the natural beauty on display round the year and in the contrast provided by the dark days I had seen, illuminated occasionally by the bright spots that had been my life here for over 6 years.
In the final analysis, it was a great vacation. I had ventured out into the known. I came back; not quite whole, but a little more complete. Sometimes we fear what we know, more than what we don’t.