Friday night I flew up to Portland. I'd been looking forward to the trip, antsy all day, watching the clock as the hands slowly crept toward 4 pm when I could leave to go stand in the cattle line for Southwest and still get a decent seat because too many business trips have taught me why being near the front of the plane is better, much better. I showed the picture of my niece to anyone who would look, and when it was time I was practically running out the door.
As the plane came in to land I looked out the window - rolling hills, all green. Oregon has it all over the Sacramento Valley for scenery. I drove from the airport to Richard's hotel in a 'glad I rented because I'd never in a million years actually think about *buying* this' car. We walked to dinner through a small section of Portland full of trendy shops, holding hands and laughing, talking, catching up. We ate at an upscale Italian restaurant, not thinking about needing reservations til we arrived, but luckily they had seats at the bar, and it turned out that was the best place to sit anyway, because we got to watch the cooks.
Most places don't consider presentation of the food anymore. Or perhaps I should say most places we eat - considering that when we're both in the same town, we often work til late and our choices of eating establishments are limited to those places open 24 hours, I may not have much to compare to, but each plate was a work of art. They drizzled raspberry sauce in patterns on plates and garnished servings of gelato with fresh blossoms. They tucked cloves of roasted garlic amid the vegetables and sauted the food with a flourish. Despite where we were seated - or maybe because of it - it was an incredibly romantic dinner too. We sat on high stools, eating our food, leaning toward each other, talking, touching shoulders, holding hands. When we had stuffed ourselves with as much as we could of the dinners, we savored bittersweet chocolate mousse with strips of biscotti that crumbled with each bite
The walk back to the hotel was much longer than the walk there - or perhaps it was simply that we were much slower, overfull from the dinner, enjoying the nighttime, the fresh air, the sights of a city foreign to both of us, and it didn't help that we were laughing til sides hurt and we were weak from it.
We drove to my sister's place in Washington, getting up early since the drive was several hours long. As we wove through trees and lush green, we both vocalized the regret that we've locked ourselves into the Sacramento Valley. Location isn't everything I know - we've both got family we're extremely close to and that's far more important then beautiful surroundings, but oh, it's lovely up there this time of year, and maybe someday.
The weekend passed too quickly. Fiona was on her best behavior, cooing and grinning easily. My younger sister and I caught up on family gossip while making cookies overloaded with chocolate chips and pecans. We reminisced, subsiding into laughter that made speech nearly impossible several times, while our patient SO's waited for us to regain control and explain just why it was that a re-telling of how my mother used to give us directions to the school had us crying with laughter. She and her husband proudly gave us a tour of the new house and land and Richard and I pondered over how we would get their huge back deck onto the airplane with us. I teasingly begged my brother-in-law not to hack down all the ivy because next July he could rip off all he wanted and send it down to California for the wedding. I held Fiona as much as I could, delighting in how much she's grown and changed since I last saw her - she can sit up now; she's got two teeth and more on the way - and saddened by the fact that there will be even more changes I'll only witness via email until I can see her again.