I was running errands a couple weeks ago and stopped by the nail salon down the street from my house for a quick manicure. It was rainy and I was tired, but I needed a sparkly nail color for my trip to Las Vegas. Getting my nails done before a trip or event has been a tradition for longer than I can remember. I know it's a thing for a lot of people, but as I left the salon I realized that I had almost mindlessly rolled into the parking lot, signed in, and later checked "manicure" off my to-do list.
It reminded me of the weird little nail salon next to a Kroger that my mom and I used to go to--before vacations, before I graduated from high school, before any event that had us excited enough to want to prep in some way. As I sat in the salon by myself that day, waiting for gold gel polish dry under the UV light, I realized how far removed our life in California is from the days we used to live all over Virginia, extra-close to our families.
I grew up in Roanoke and met Rob in Farmville even though he had also been in Roanoke for high school, and then we moved to Charlottesville together before he lived in DC and I would drive there on the weekends, getting to know I-81 N like the back of my hand. We traveled 81 and 64 more times than I can count, and through all four seasons, but the one that sticks the most is spring, in the rain--when the air is damp but not muggy yet, and everything is fresh and greener than you remembered it ever could be.
There's a stretch of 280 N that reminds me of those days back east. When we were first moving to California everyone told us how amazing the weather was, and from our own visits we knew, too. It's sunny and mild every day and there are palm trees and cacti in my neighborhood. But this winter has been rainy and grey and occasionally, on a damp highway lined with evergreen-studded mountains, it almost feels like we're back.
So maybe you're driving yourself from the South Bay to a dermatologist appointment in San Francisco on a dreary January afternoon, listening to podcasts and sipping hot water with lemon after a blog meeting and a barre workout. But it could also be the road between Charlottesville and Roanoke on a rainy April morning; the sun coming up over the mountains as you make your way to the coffee shop where you work every day before returning to your small apartment on The Corner to write more of your master's thesis.
I didn't know that winter in California could look and feel like spring in Virginia.
But sometimes, it does.