In December 1990, a few days before Christmas, my one-year-old daughter, her father and I arrived in San Francisco. We had left everyone and everything behind for the pursuit of a new life in a new country, a new continent, far from our native France.
Pictures of our first Christmas in the USA are still vividly part of my memories. We were so recent, so foreigners that for the time of the holiday season, it felt as if we lived under a small glass dome, isolated and protected from the rest of the world.
Last Thursday, for the first time ever, my husband and I spent a day and a night together in San Francisco, away from home, without our kids, old enough to stay alone.
Although we don’t live in the city anymore, San Francisco still takes my breath away each time I set eyes on the skyline emerging through the sun. The weather was the finest I could hope for. The air was crisp and clean and the city all dressed up for the holidays.
We went to the Legion of Honor Museum set in the Lincoln Park. The view on the shimmering waters of the Bay is spectacular, the building quite hideous, but the current exhibit Pissarro’s People a gem.
I found interesting that the exhibit we chose was about a painter who, like the immigrants we are, was a mutt. Jewish, married to a non-Jewish woman, Dutch by birth but living in France. Living in a familial setting that he and his wife built with their children, apart from the world and yet clearly aware of it.
After the museum, we had lunch at the Magic Flute, a lovely restaurant set on Sacramento, in one of the most desirable parts of the city. An elderly couple sat in the garden section where a young man shared lunch with his mom and perhaps his grandfather. There was an end of the year business lunch between six young people. A mom and her three young children and their grandmother left as two young women arrived with a baby.
As I observed the guests and us, I knew we were living a moment away from the reality of the city, the state, the country and the world. We were at that moment under a glass dome, isolated and protected.
We spent the rest of the day walking through a mix of streets either bursting with holiday energy or sleeping under an unusual warm sun.
My husband had made dinner reservation at Michael Mina, one of the most sought after restaurants in the city.
I often tell my husband that everyone on earth should get the possibility, once in a lifetime, to eat exquisite food and sleep in an exquisite hotel.
I got more than my share last Thursday.
As I had at the museum and at lunchtime, I felt again that the fifty or so people who were having dinner tonight were living in a world secured between two parentheses.
Ironically, we had decided to spend Thursday in the city only because it fitted our children’s calendar.
It is only during the night, when I woke up, in an unfamiliar room, that I realized that we had both forgotten that Thursday was December 22.
We had been living a day and a night under the glass dome.
And unlike in 1990, privileged.