Save Me San Francisco

I haven’t been here in a while.  It’s pretty easy to slap up a happy go lucky blog post when things are going really great in my life, or when a nail polish goes horribly wrong.  But most of the time I suppose life is a messy conglomeration of disastrously wrong and gloriously right mixed in with joy and sorrow and good and bad relationships manicures.

In fact, after I shared that last post about how wonderfully perfect my life was, things went downhill head spinningly fast in a variety of ways.  Illnesses happened in my family, Mr. Right turned into Mr. Oh So Very Wrong, my cat died.  I’m not sure if that’s life knocking me down a peg, or just a fact of being human.  But it happened.

Anyhoodle…in the grand scheme of it all, some other crazy wonderful things happened, and they deserve to be shared.  So, I’m back to post again.

I spent about four years of my childhood in California, half in San Francisco and half in Los Angeles.  I loved living in SF so very much, and had my mom chosen to leave us there, my life might be very different today.  But she moved us to sunny Los Angeles during my 7th grade year, and I hated LA with a passion.  It was just completely the wrong path for my life, and somehow at 14 years-old I had the wisdom to know that, and she had the wisdom to let me go and move in with my grandparents in Missouri.

It’s been on my Bucket List to someday go back to San Francisco, and I just never have.  I have a rather love/hate relationship with travel.  It stresses me out to no end as I’m preparing for it.  When I’m actually doing it, I usually have a lot of fun and make a lot of great memories.  When it’s over, I’m always 100% happy I did it.  But it’s tough to get me to agree to endure the “before” part required to get me to the “after.”

Well, in the past few weeks, the stars aligned in such a way as to grant me an all expenses paid trip to a conference in San Francisco.  The day my boss asked me if I’d like to go, I was in complete shock.  As it sunk in over the next few days, and once the travel arrangements all fell into place, I’ve been more excited and less stressed (a TINY bit less stressed).

Our hotel is just 10 blocks from the apartment where Mom and I lived.  I remember it being a beautiful one-bedroom with hard wood floors and bay windows.  I remember first watching these new things called “videos” on my little television in that bedroom.  I remember riding cable cars to Fisherman’s Wharf and selling cookies.  I remember collecting sea glass on the beach and playing video games at the Pier 39 arcade.  I had my first kiss and my first broken heart in that city.  I did a lot of growing up and lived a lot of life in that city.  I’m really viewing this trip as a necessary step in my life’s evolution.  And of course, a lot of that life revolves around memories of my mom.

As I started to prepare for the trip, I’ve been dreading packing.  I hate packing.  I feel the need to take All. Of. The. Things. that I might possibly have need for on my journey, as though I’ll never be coming back, and as though they don’t sell toothpaste and socks in places I do not live.

My suitcase is falling apart.  It’s fine for schlepping into the back of a state van for a trip an hour away, but I didn’t think it would survive being checked onto an airplane.  I debated buying a new suitcase for this trip, but the other day, the answer came to me.  I need to take Mom’s suitcase.  This realization was a little hard for me to handle.

Mom did not share my love/hate attitude toward travel.  Her relationship with travel was love/REALLY LOVE.  That suitcase has been all over the world with my mother, packed with joy and anticipation for every journey.  Really, of all my mom’s belongings piled into my closet, I can’t think of much that would be more a part of her than that suitcase.  I knew it was meant to be for me to take her suitcase to San Francisco.

Here’s the thing though.  I hadn’t opened that suitcase since she died.  I packed it full of her clothes when I moved her out of her apartment and into my house before she got too sick to live anywhere but a nursing home.  It was full of skirts and dresses and tops that she never wore again after I packed them for her.  I knew they would all smell like her.  I knew unpacking that suitcase would stir up a lot of emotions.  And it did.

But I did it today, because my trip is next week.  I needed to start packing.  I pulled her things out one by one, and I smelled them, and I remembered her wearing them, and I decided which items to keep and which to donate to Goodwill.  I cried, and I smiled, and I got through it.

Which is I guess what we do in life.  We cry, we smile, we go on our journeys, and we make our memories.  Some of those memories are painful.  Sometimes we live through wonderful experiences that create new memories.  The older I get, the more I find that it’s all muddled up together.

I know this trip back to San Francisco with my mother’s suitcase will stir up a lot of emotions for me.  I’m going back to the place where I spent my junior high years (which, let’s face it, were a mixed bag for all of us) living with my mother who isn’t with me anymore.  Except that I feel like a part of her will be with me on this journey.  In that little black suitcase.

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