We returned late Wednesday night, or rather early Thursday morning, from a 15 hour visit to San Francisco. The visit was wedged between two 9+ hours of driving - from San Diego and back. It was meant to be a normal visit - a 1.5 hour flight in the morning and a 1.5 hour return that night with a short deposition in the middle of the day. That is until Jeff found out that he had to be in the Bay Area as well on the same day for his work. We realized it was more complicated when I remembered that I had to be in Los Angeles the day before, and we couldn't figure out how I could be back in San Diego in time for Jeff to make the last flight out of San Diego (a woefully early flight of 6:50 p.m.). We have a part time nanny, but she goes to school in the evenings, and we are not together enough to have lined up a back-up babysitter for such emergency situations. Hence this brilliant idea of driving 18 hours in a 34 hour span.
So on Tuesday morning, I boarded Amtrak's Surfliner for Los Angeles at 6:45 a.m. with my suitcase of exhibits for my deposition. That afternoon, at approximately 3:00 p.m., as I bombarded my witness with my endless list of tedious questions, Jeff left San Diego to pick me up in LA with our little guy strapped in his carseat in the back. After wading through LA traffic, he found me waiting at a Starbucks after my depo. I greeted him with a big cup of coffee for his driving, and we continued to drive and drive and drive -- with a quick stop at In-n-Out after the Grapevine -- until we found ourselves in our familiar terrain, our home that no longer was home. But it still felt like home, even the East Bay, where we had hardly spent any time except to visit our close friends and for the occasional visit to Ikea -- but the signs leading to Berkeley, the lights on the Bay Bridge, and even the potholes on the roads felt like they were mine in some way.
When we checked in at the Hyatt Regency at 1:00 a.m., the guy asked if we needed directions around the city. Oh, no, we said. We used to live here - until we moved away four months ago. He, a native of some unmemorable state like Arkansas or Idaho, raved about the Chinese food in San Francisco. And suddenly, I couldn't stop thinking about the Chinese food in San Francisco.
I stayed up to finish preparing for my next deposition and made the mistake of sitting in front of a mirror with lighting that worked far too well. I noticed all my gray strands as I sat typing in my questions -- and vanity required that I spend at least 30 minutes at 3 in the morning pulling out all my unwanted signs of aging.
At 7:00 a.m., Jeff left for his meeting in Silicon Valley. After showering and getting dressed, I hung out with little T at Starbuck's across the street where I had spent many mornings before work in my days before little T. As we sat there, me in my suit and he in his stroller, he munching on a blueberry scone, me sipping my grande latte, I felt conspicuous -- a mom with a baby in the midst of all those careerists.
Suddenly, I thought of all my friends who must be on their way to work at that very moment and perhaps even passing the very Starbuck's we were sitting in. I regretted the short visit and wished we had set aside some time to see our dear friends that we missed. I impulsively left messages with a few who worked within a 2 block radius, knowing how busy they must be and knowing they would not likely be able to see us on such short notice. At 8:25, we rushed back to the hotel room when little T pooped and waited for my friend who had agreed to watch him while I took the deposition.
At around 9am, as I tried to finish preparing for the deposition, I was surprised by an email from one of the friends I had pinged, and half an hour later, she was knocking on the hotel room door. These visits after a long stretch are never as satisfying as they are meant to be because there is never enough time to say all that you wanted to say or to give as firm as hug as you meant to give. But they are good enough placeholders for the next visit, the next hug.
Seven hours later, after the deposition, after the other meetings, and after talking on the phone with friends who were sick with a cold or couldn't make it to the city that day, we packed our stuff back into the car and started the drive out of SF. It was a mad rush to beat the rush hour traffic, to be ahead of the onslaught of cars pouring out of the feeder ramps. And that was our focus until we were well past Livermore, and miles away from our old home and the friends we didn't get a chance to see.