the goodbyes

Here we are, suspended between cities, in midair between all the goodbyes and all the hellos.

I finally managed to get the iPad charged up with sufficient videos and apps to keep E busy in his seat next to me that it dawned on me that I could write a post from here, this moment, this critical turning point. On the way to the airport, I said to my sister that when E is older, he’ll say, “I was born in San Francisco, and when I was two we moved to Chicago…” And this is the day we moved.

The goodbyes really ramped up over the past five days. After seeing people the previous week, we always ended with, “I’ll see you before we go…” and then we started the real goodbyes. Saturday was our Hasta Luego Party in Golden Gate Park with many friends from all phases of life: high school, college, studying abroad, past work, current work, single moms, Labyrinth Moms, the band, past neighbors, school parents, etc. etc. It was a game of “This Is Your Life”- in the best way. Fortunately, people largely  took over watching E romping around with his buddies so I could have a moment with each friend. It was foggy but not too cold. I cried, I laughed, but mostly I acknowledged the upcoming change and how much each person has meant to me. It felt so important in terms of my own processing as well as providing a kickoff for newly-long-distance friendships.

I came away feeling the warmth of so much love and also emotionally maxed. I tried to nap with E afterward but my brain was buzzing. We went out for sushi with dear friend L and stayed up drinking wine with her and J. I didn’t sleep well. It felt so monumental. I never second-guessed our decision to leave, just felt the magnitude of it.

On Sunday night, I went out with some of my best college and study abroad friends L and C for bubbly and a fancy dinner in the Mission and felt the bumping energy of the Mission in a new way as it fades from my proximity. We had one of those California dinners where every bite bursts with freshness and impossibly perfect balance. After all these years, it seemed impossible that we wouldn’t be within an hour of each other to easily plan such dinners in the future. No matter where we are, though, we’ll find each other.

Monday was my last morning in the office. I had a moment with my colleagues- our team of three has become two. S gave me the mirkat that we used to hold up over the wall instead of popping up to say something. I ran a couple of errands and rushed home to meet the trailer, which (of course) came at the very tail end of the 12-4pm window, preventing me from taking my car for its last SF checkup. I picked up E and we had a pizza party with neighbors and friends. Saying goodbye to J, a single mom and school parent, was one of the saddest- we saw her and her sparkplug S almost every day. The spontaneous dinners, the weekend playdates, the pickups and drop-offs… We were in the same boat.

After they left, I said to my sister B that we should be done with the remaining packing within an hour or so. It actually took five hours. The stuff just keeps coming at the end…we were done at 1am. The next morning, E and I went through and said goodbye to each room and remembered some good times there. My voice was all wobbly but I pretty much held it together. We said goodbye to our street, to the waterfall and the geese and the buffalo in GG Park, and the fire truck- all on the way to school. The movers came and loaded the trailer in two hours. I had time to run a couple of last errands with my dear friend K and go for a walk through the Presidio, breathing in the cold fog that I know I will eventually miss, the smell of eucalyptus, the obscured view of the Golden Gate Bridge..

After K left, the apartment was empty minus my luggage. I swept each room tearfully, remembering when I first moved in, just days before getting pregnant with E. I remembered bringing him home from the hospital, the weeks and months with Mimi and Chacha. It was the perfect apartment at the perfect time.

The mover said they would pick up the trailer the next day, a day for which I did not have permits, so, after several panicky phone calls, I realized I was powerless there and left hoping they’d get it that night (they did!). The car shipper said that he’d get the car the next day instead of the planned day after. I’m pretty sure the piano mover showed up on the wrong day too but that could have been my mistake. There are always curveballs when moving… and we rolled with it. But just as I was saying how everything had gone perfectly, I crunched my bumper into a parked car in front of me while pulling out of my hood for the last time- just heightened emotions and distraction but, man, it’s a big dent. That further rattled me on the way out.

Friend and neighbor L had offered to drive us to Palo Alto to my sister’s so she could bring my car back for the car shipper the next day. She was the angel who helped me get the place and she was a critical help on the way out (and everything in between). She was with me for the bumper crunch and to pick up E at his school. Every single teacher cried while saying goodbye. The kids painted a tree made of hands that said “We Love You, E.” I saw another dear friend M and her daughter L at pickup who’d been on vacation- and the tears kept rolling. I really had a pit in my stomach at this point. I’m taking E away from so many known good things.

Pulling away from the school, my GPS app took me past the gray, murky ocean and through some hilly, foggy neighborhoods I’ve never seen before on the way to 280, which turned out to be Colma, a totally random way to leave. A few minutes later, we emerged from the cloud into the golden afternoon California sunlight of the peninsula. L stayed for a bit at my sister’s, then said goodbye and drove away in my dented car. E immediately said, “Where’s L going?” and I said, “She’s going home.” To our former home. I had handed her all my remaining keys.

We had burritos with B and J and went to bed early. Today, we kicked a ball and blew bubbles in the park. Of course, it’s hardest to leave my sister. Definitely reassuring that she encouraged me to make this move even before I was thinking about it and is also in a happy new relationship in a sweet little house and a growing business… After ten years in the same city, though, this will be an adjustment. And I hate taking E so far away from her.

We drove to the airport in tears, making plans. When E was saying goodbye, he said, “See you tonight!” He asked if we were going home. He really gets a lot of this- he knows that the boxes and the disappearing furniture signify something big. And he always knew we’d be going on an airplane to Chicago to see his cousins. I don’t think he understands the goodbyes..

I feel good now- relieved that all the packing and planning is over and all of our worldly possessions are on three different trucks. I’m grateful that the goodbyes were hard because that means we had a good time. I’m a little scared. Excited to set up a new home minus a lot of junk. Ready to hit the ground running (after some rest as we camp at my sister D’s while our stuff is in transit).

We did it. Most of all, I hope this move brings the awesome upgrades that I think it will. The weight of the decision is so much heavier since it is a critical turning point in E’s life too.

Here’s to our next chapter- may it be as sweet as what came before it.




Last time J was here visiting, we went over to help my sister pack as she prepared to move in with her girlfriend. As he gleefully packed her kitchen in the space of just 1.5 hours, I realized that of course I would need his help with my move as well. This is a guy who is masterful with anything related to order, symmetry, spatial relations, and general meticulous organization. I bought him a ticket from New Orleans to SF with miles and he arrived Monday.

One thing I’ve noticed since deciding to make this big move is how I’m missing having a partner for the first real and deep way since E was born. There are many things about having a partner that I have kind of been surprised about not missing or craving–but when it came to making all these big decisions, I miss having someone to talk them through with. Someone who was equally invested and able to process with me on a daily basis. I specifically am missing that as I’m processing the emotions of all of it.

Where should we move? When should we move? Which apartment should we take? Which school should E go to? Which mover should we hire? What about the piano mover? The car shipper? Should I bring the couch? Should I sell the couch? Should I give away the couch? What does everyone have against my couch?

I’ve leaned heavily on family and friends in recent weeks as I work through all these decisions, and everyone has been incredibly helpful. And- I don’t want to speak too soon, but this move feels like we’re seriously dialed in to the flow of the universe.

But back to my couch- everyone has a different opinion. I bought it 12 years ago, which of course seems like last weekend to me. I bought it new, which means I spent a lot, and bought it right in the showroom, for full price, and so clearly on some level I believe that I must keep it for the rest of my life. It’s literally the only piece of furniture I’ve bought new outside of Ikea. But, beyond that, it’s just been a comfy and constant presence in all my places since then. It’s light yellow with messy pillows and outstretched armrests that want to give you a hug. It’s huge- people can easily stretch out and sleep on it. I thought I should bring it. My whole family said an emphatic no. J said, absolutely no. (My sister D said to bring it but she hasn’t seen it in a couple years.) I asked J, “What do you have against my couch?” J does not mince words, “It’s dirty.” I looked it over and he’s right. It’s kind of dirty, and old, and slightly worn. And a huge thing to move. I went to Craig’s List and realized that all the free couches pretty much look like mine.

So, I’m giving it away free. If I am so lucky! J has his doubts. And this is just one of so many decisions.

I could not ask for a better friend, brother, and decision partner than J. He’s close with his older sister who is also a single mom- so he knows how to step in and be monumentally helpful. And he loves to help, loves to be efficient, loves to check things off the list. He BARTed in from the airport and I met him in the Mission where we bought boxes, caught an Uber, and picked up E. Each day last week, we went to work (we work together), came home, made or ordered dinner, then he cleaned up and started packing while I got E to bed. Yesterday afternoon, we finished up work, got my car washed, bought more boxes, installed a new windshield wiper, and picked up some groceries before getting E. Today, I had E with his former nanny almost all day and we both worked hard for six straight hours and basically got it done.

At several moments, I caught J whispering, “Damn, I’m good,” as he perfectly laid the final object into a box like the last piece of a puzzle. He used rugs to wrap fragile mirrors, he was giddy when he found leftover plastic bags with zippers that perfectly held the right combo of stuff, and he was distraught when we realized that my iPad had been missing for several days and likely got put into one of the boxes by mistake. (He called my phone while I turned on my dog hearing and went box to box until I heard it, ringing nestled in a box of books.) The guy takes the whole thing really seriously, and at several points during the week had a crisis of confidence that we would never get the whole job done before he had to go. He was way more stressed than me. (In part because it was really all I could do to get through our regular daily routine and I kept barely helping and going to bed early.) His brain simply works differently than mine in this respect and I’m so lucky that I could even dream of summoning that kind of help.

As I write this, an email just came in from someone interested in my free couch, and she has a truck, and she can pick it up tomorrow. My heart just started pounding. I’m having a bit of a hard time letting this one go as I’m in blogging mode with my back against one of the outstretched armrests, this couch has been my friend. I almost cried when a fellow single mom picked up E’s kitchen today…

E is not missing a beat. I wondered if he’d start noticing stuff was gone, like his kitchen, but we seem to have left out just enough toys, just enough books, and just the RIGHT toys and books (so far, the ones he’s asked for have all been the not-packed ones). Other than vying a bit for my attention while J was here, he’s just himself. He thinks a little more about Chicago, and his cousins, due to my prompting (he wants to go to the train restaurant). He just started saying “OK” as much as the rest of us. He refers to any semi-obscured space like under the couch as “behind the jungle.” He has such a great sense of humor. We quickly develop series of inside jokes like, “It’s a what?” “It’s a boing boing.” “It’s a what?” “It’s a what?”  “It’s a boing boing.” “It’s a hippopotamus?” “No, it’s a boing boing!” Then it doesn’t come up again for five days, and out of the blue he goes, “It’s a what?”

I really do think I’m calmer about the “where” because my “why” is coming with me.

We have something like 42 boxes packed, movers booked, plane ticket bought. We left out a few dishes, pots and pans, utensils. The amount of toiletries and clothes that you’d have on a 2-week trip. A few odds and ends. Probably the amount of possessions that Marie Kondo would say is optimal. No rugs, nothing on the walls. It’s so freeing to be so uncluttered (and, ultimately, this is probably the most organized I’ve ever been in my life).

Tonight, J, E, and I bundled up and headed out for pizza into the thick fog, E on his trike. It was such a normal night in SF, and yet everything is about to change, and yet not really.

Tomorrow my couch goes. And E and I will enjoy these last ten days in a way that I’ve never been able to enjoy such a big transition.


Thank you, J.


con jorge




Egads, it’s been over a month. This will be a bulleted post. Here’s what’s been happening:

  • I’m on the couch in a rare moment of evening quiet, listening to foghorns in the distance. I feel like I haven’t stopped moving or working or planning or thinking for the past six weeks.
  • We found a new place in Chicago. It has lots of space, a deck and enclosed backyard (!!!), two bedrooms, laundry, dishwasher, parking, hardwood floors, high ceilings, lots of light, tons of closets/cabinets, vintage details. It’s a ten minute walk from my sister’s house. It’s 4 blocks from downtown and trains. Landscaping, snow shoveling, storm window installation, and heat are all included. I had been tempted by a thoroughly-modern urban downtown place (no parking or outdoor space), a tiny single family home (too expensive and weird kitchen), and a just-OK and potentially truly not-great save-money-for-a-house option (important to be happy when we get there)… And this was out of probably 15 places I saw! The primary downside to our new place is the glass top electric stove. And my dream of an open kitchen will have to get shelved until our next move. But I’m getting a grill for the deck and wow did that overall work out well. Thanks to my sister D and bro-in-law S for child care and helping me work through the problem over four intense days.
  • Coming back after vacation and diving back into our regular routine, I have many mixed emotions. I notice my tendency to get more negative on this place now that I’m on my way out (makes it easier!), more frustrated in the frustrations. (UGH the fog. HOW did I ever manage this tiny bathroom sink. I HATE my commute. Etc.) I also notice how much my current apartment feels like home.  I notice the teachers at E’s school giving him many more hugs and kisses on arrival and departure. I notice the impermanence of all the objects in my apartment, at this very moment sitting right where they’ve always been. I feel all the moves that lead up to this one. I dreamt last night of an old boyfriend. I’ll wake up one morning and SF will be in my past.
  • A friend emailed me and asked for my three primary emotions at this stage. I thought about this for half a day and wrote back:
    • 1. peaceful. This decision took a while to happen but once it was done, it was so obviously right. It doesn’t surprise or shock me anymore, it’s just the evolution of our life. It will not be perfect but it will be great.
    • 2. expansion. This is not an emotion but there’s a feeling that we can grow in our new space- especially knowing I can fling open the back door and be outside on the grass (or snow).. E will grow there. And me too.
    • 3. anxiety about everything I’m about to have to do. All I have to do is imagine moving a big family with a whole house and I realize that my move is super tiny and simple. But, still, juggling purging and sorting and organizing and packing and reserving a mover, piano mover, car mover, and then camping out with boxes and camping out without boxes- all with E and a pretty crazy month work-wise… It’s normal to feel nervous. I know we can do it.
  • I’m starting to feel more disengaged, like a ghost floating through the city, no longer looking for new connections. No one is investing in newer friendships with us now either. It’s normal. This is is why it’s better to leave soon after making the decision to leave, since otherwise you’re just waiting. It’s like breaking up when you still live together. In fact, it is that.
  • National and world news has been unbearable. As soon as I can, I’ll be devoting time to helping elect Hillary Clinton.
  • Flying back on Sunday, I realized it was my last time flying home to SF. I thought about how much I have loved flying home to SF. And I’ve done a lot of it in the almost 20 years I’ve been here.
  • I chopped my hair and turned 43 and bought rad silver Birkenstocks.
  • I got into the Oak Park River Forest Symphony. Rehearsals begin August 31!
  • I ran every other day on vacation, 3-4 miles, and felt like a human being again. I can’t wait to build this into my new schedule.
  • E can sort of differentiate San Asisco from Chicago and knows there’s an airplane that separates them. Mostly, though, he knows his family, and he knows that they show up all over the place.
  • We’re home wherever we’re together.

our new backyard