Litner Family Pilgrimage to San Francisco

My dad, my brothers, and I are die-hard 49ers fans who had never been to the motherland (i.e. Candlestick Park). My dad remedied this the other week when he  generously gifted us a weekend trip to San Francisco to see a game. I had never been to San Francisco or to an NFL game, an activity ranked high on my bucket list, so I didn’t really consider it crazy to travel 3000 miles to watch a sporting event until the customs official said “seriously?” when I told her the purpose of my trip.

The last time I travelled with my dad and my brothers, I was eight years old, had ill-considered bangs and my dad was reading me “James and the Giant Peach.” Now, some twenty-four years later, I have ill considered bangs and am reading “The Perks of Being a Wallflower.” What have I been doing with my life? I had little time to mull over my lack of maturation, what with my dad’s full day-and-a-half itinerary, which included: Piers one through three hundred and eighty-nine, the cable car museum, coit tower, fisherman’s wharf, Ghirardelli Square, Sausalito, Tiburon, and Napa Valley, to name a few. Unfortunately, this left no time to visit the Full House house.

Traveling with my dad is lovely because he likes the finer things in life, and, to him, everything is a finer thing. I’m pretty sure his glasses have panoramic lenses, leading him to remark on the quaint beauty of run down tiles patching up holes in the walls of an underground parking lot. 

I love seeing new cities and walking their streets. I love seeing new sites, meeting new people and trying new things. I especially love sea lions. The problem is, as soon as my plane lands at my destination, I begin to panic. This trip was no different. Surrounded by gorgeous views and the people I love most in the world, my chest seized with anxiety as a giant peach pit sized lump lodged in my throat. No! Not now nerves! Please! Not here, not now! I was so determined this time to have fun and let go, I was prepared to bulldoze my traiterous nerves like a 49er linebacker. Or, in this case, with a Xanax washed down with a glass of pinot. Thankfully, within half an hour my anxiety ebbed away while my consciousness did not. I kindly ask that you not tell Dr. Drew.

Growing up, branching off into new families, we so rarely get to replicate the times we shared with our first ones. It is not often that we get to talk and laugh together with our parents and siblings like old times, or douse our older brothers with a cup of cold water over the shower curtain for all those times he did that to us. I did and I am so lucky.

By Sunday morning, I could hardly wait for the pre-game tailgate, which my husband Stephen had described as being a revelatory gathering of football watching, sausage grilling, Larry the Cable Guy loving, folk. Coming from out of town, and hence having no portable grill, Stephen had instructed us to trade drinks for some burgers. We headed to a store to load up on beverages.

My Dad: “Do you think tailgaters prefer red wine or white wine?”

My Brothers and I: “Neither!”

My Dad: “Are you saying we should get a rosé?”

We finally compromised on a couple six packs of award-winning, single batch, raspberry infused ale from a local artisan brewer.

My dad had been panicking all morning about getting a spot at the tailgate but I was happy to see him finally relax when we pulled into a spot four hours ahead of the kickoff. Despite the incredibly fun and welcoming atmosphere, we felt shy about bartering a meal. Instead, my brothers played football with some people, I parked myself on the trunk of our car eating crackers dipped in garlic and rosemary hummus which was supposed to bring out the beer’s full flavour, while my dad wondered if we were tailgating properly. Panicking about our second unopened six pack, he finally handed the box over to a couple guys a few cars down in exchange for a handshake.


Game Time, huh!

Heading into Candlestick Park, weaving between sausages grilling, we came upon the Git-R-Done type of tailgate we had imagined. Swarms of excited people were decked out head-to-toe in 49er gear, eating, cheering, drinking and high-fiving passers-by. It was amazing. We followed the red and gold tide into the stadium, swept up in the exhilaration of some 70,000 other keyed up fans. It was just like when I went to see the Toronto Argonauts play a few years ago, except for EVERYTHING. This atmosphere was like none I had ever experienced and settling into our seats, only a few rows behind the goal post, I was giddy. Watching the unbelievable game, I clapped, I danced, I cheered and when the Niners got a touchdown I embraced total strangers without the benefit of Purell or a health record background check. I got to this surrounded by my family.

Sometimes, you have these moments that are filled with so much fun, so much joy, and you just know that they are going to set the bar for all other moments to come and it’s sort of sad, because you know that so few moments are going to compare to this one you are living right now. Right there, watching football on a lazy Sunday with my family, I wished I could encase the moment. I wished I could put glass around, like a snow globe, so that in my bad moments down the road, when I feel hopeless, afraid and alone, I could hold it. I would take it off the shelf and lift it up to the light. I would put my face against the dome and see my dad, my brothers and I all sitting together smiling and then I would shake it, watching the glittered specks float down around us, like sunshine, on that one, perfect afternoon.