I went all the way down town and took a friend out for lunch for her 84th birthday today. We sat outside at a restaurant at the Ferry Building, watching the water change from blue to green as the sun moved in and out of clouds, tourists and office workers strolling by munching on take-out, seagulls with feathers ruffling in the wind, heads cocked in hope of a tidbit. Every now and then a ferry would pull out with white water roiling in its wake, people leaning over the rail to get a last glimpse of the city. The slanted autumn light is so beautiful this time of year. Somehow, it makes the colors richer, so a freighter with a splash of red on the side seemed almost to glow across the water.
We ate clam chowder and crab sandwiches on sourdough rolls and talked and talked over coffee and pie, then strolled across to the street artists at the bottom of Market Street to check out their wares: a brilliant emerald green t-shirt stamped with a long-necked black giraffe, thick pottery mugs glazed purple and turquoise, a lovely and delicate wooden bowl, the swirling grain stained in a multitude of earth tones, earrings and bracelets and hats with long feathers–all of it impossibly pricey, but wonderful to look at. Then we walked and walked up Market Street, past girls in flared pants and three-inch heels, grizzled old men in rags on the sidewalk, tattooed bike messengers and suburban matrons–the whole panoply of downtown life.
We turned up a side street and there, walking toward us, was my younger son. I’d planned to stop by his work and caught him just as he was leaving. Somehow, encountering him on the street by accident that way, I saw him as I might a stranger–tall and handsome and so…urban. So odd to get these glimpses of your kids as others must see them, all the scuffed knees and teenage angst gone from the picture. This son, who struggled through childhood and adolescence and almost killed himself with drugs and alcohol, is now a 37-year-old man who has been sober more than ten years and looks completely comfortable in the heart of the city. I am proud of him, and so happy to be seeing him with eyes unclouded by guilt and shame. Sober eyes.
And now, home and in pain, with ointments and ice packs. But so worth it. My friend said it was the nicest birthday she’d had in a long time. Some days, this day, I am so grateful for my life.