San Francisco Took My Heart, Then Broke It
I grew up in San Francisco. I assumed my children would, too.
I was 17 years old when I left my heart in San Francisco.
I had every intention of getting it back — I wasn’t leaving for good, after all. I was going to college on the East Coast, where I would be asserting my independence by putting 3,000 miles between myself and my childhood home.
Some children dream of escaping their hometowns, but when I pictured my adulthood, it was always nestled in the colorful clutter of the city by the bay. I didn’t just envision my future in San Francisco — I envisioned it around the corner from my parents’ house. I grew up in the Inner Sunset, half a block from Golden Gate Park. From my point of view, there was no other neighborhood worth living in.
My best friend, who I considered my second and far less obnoxious sister, lived in the middle flat of a three-story building around the corner from our flat. Our backyards kissed at the corners and our parents had installed a gate to enable effortless playdates. When we grew up, I decided, we would live in her building along with my real sister, who I accurately predicted would be far less obnoxious as an adult. Each of us would get our own flat, and our kids could run back and forth to visit Grandma and Grandpa.
I had it all worked out. I also wanted an attic, with a circular window that I could gaze out of while writing my books. My friend’s building had no attic, but I didn’t let myself get hung up on the details.
Growing up, we had it all, and I wanted it all for my future family, too. A wide grassy field at the end of the block. Just past that, an expansive jungle of a playground with terrifying cement slides, somehow still standing, and circular swings, long since removed, each designed to accommodate a gaggle of children. My childhood goal was to pump hard enough to turn the swing 360 degrees.
Behind the playground was another field, usually punctuated by groups of long-haired drummers, and then a wide road closed to traffic on Sundays, where I learned how to propel myself forward on various wheels. The park went on and on — lush fields and thickets of trees, occasional rivers and lakes, bursts of blooming flowers that…