We purchased our home months ago when a pandemic was just a whisper. An impossible possibility. Our plan had always been to leave the Bay Area by June of 2020. We had been house hunting since August 2019, and when the house of my dreams came on the market in February 2020, it felt like it was meant to be.
Fast forward to March - our offer was accepted, all inspections passed with flying colors, and I began requesting estimates for a cross country move from San Francisco to Virginia with a late April/early May date in mind. And then, Italy happened. Coronavirus cases slowly started popping up around the US, and the idea of being stuck inside a tiny two-bedroom apartment in the middle of San Francisco (with a toddler) became my own worst nightmare.
My only thought was that I needed to get out of the city. At that time, we had no idea what would happen around the country as the virus spread. Would domestic travel be shut down? Would moving companies stay open? Would we end up having to drive across the country?
I called all the moving companies I was working with and asked how soon we could push up our move date - surprisingly, they all accommodated my request with complete understanding, and our move was rescheduled for the end of March. (Companies I used are linked below.) This included not only all our belongings but also our two cars. I ended up dropping one car off with the movers the very next day just to ensure we had a car in Virginia should sh*t really hit the fan, and we kept the other car in case we needed to hit the road immediately.
My priority became getting my son out of the densely populated city. I called the airlines and changed our flights to March 16th. What had initially been a planned packing schedule spread out over a months-plus timeline was shoved into a week. On top of everything, my husband had to stay in the city until the end of the month (with our cat) due to work.
I would be traveling across the country, alone with a toddler, during the beginning of a national outbreak.
The week leading up to our flight, I had a few anxiety attacks. At one point, my throat started closing up, and I was convinced I had coronavirus. Add the fact that my husband was having to work from home, and you get a nice stress ball of an Ashley. I took CBD pills, tried to meditate, and mainly focused on the relief I would feel being out of a virus hotspot. The distraction that helped the most was how much packing I needed to accomplish before leaving.
The morning of our flight will be one I'll never forget. We had an 8am flight out of SFO, and my husband drove us to the airport. At this point, air travel was already in decline, and the airport was a ghost town. My husband parked the car at the drop off zone, rolled our bags inside, and lingered for a few moments before saying goodbye. The plan was for him to follow us to the east coast two weeks later, but we both had no idea what travel and restrictions would look like by then. I hated leaving him just as much as he hated not being able to go with us. He gave us hugs, and as he walked back to the car, I knew it was time to get my game face on.
Check-in and security were a breeze, for which I am so grateful. My son was also incredibly respectful of everything I asked of him. "Ok, Michael, please stand here while mama grabs our bags." He stood straight like a soldier, didn't touch a thing, and didn't move until I put him back in his stroller. I had packed gloves, hand sanitizer, and sanitizing spray. We went straight to the bathroom after security and washed our hands. The actual gate was another ghost town, and when I looked at the seat map, the flight was basically empty.
I decided I would wait to be the last on the plane, the idea being fewer people walking past us in our seats, and less chance of getting stuck on the gangway surrounded by others. A gate agent came over and asked if I wanted to board early with my son, and I told her I'd wait until the end. Her response was, "That's a smart choice." Board the plane we did, and I immediately sprayed down every surface. Again, Michael was a dream, waiting for me to tell him it was ok to sit down.
An older gentleman across from us was also wiping down his seat, and he told me his daughter made sure he was well prepared for the long flight. There was comfort in seeing someone else taking safety precautions, and it made me feel like I was part of a community. All of us scared and trying to make the best of the situation.
As the plane took off, it was a bittersweet moment. I knew I was taking my son to a new beginning, excitement in our future, but I was also sad to say goodbye to a city I adore. Sadder still that I didn't get to have the farewell tour of California I had been planning. But such is life, and I sighed with a bit of relief that this step was at least marked off.
My family was in constant communication throughout the flight, asking how full it was, how Michael was doing, where we were now (over the country?) It also put a smile on my face to know we'd soon be so much closer to all of them.
The same day I landed in Virginia, San Francisco announced it's "shelter in place" order. We decided enough was enough, and my husband needed to head to the east coast sooner rather than later. With that decision came another round of calling movers, finding friends who could oversee our move on the SF side, and changing my husband's flight to a week early. Again, luck seemed to be on our side, and the pieces all came together.
On the day of his travels, every flight from SFO to IAD was canceled - except my husband's. The airport was again a ghost town. I wish I had a camera on him as he went through security - crazy cat in hand, N95 mask and gloves, and the overabundance of hand sanitizer I had left him. He did it, though, and was safely reunited with our family.
There were several things we needed to be done at our new house, so we quarantined with my aunt and uncle. Being with family again, out in the Virginia countryside, was truly the best part of all of this. Watching my son go on walks in the backyard with his godparents, telling me about the bugs and trees he found - all of this made me so grateful to have a village again. To feel safe and secure.
Our belongings made it from San Francisco about three weeks after we did. Our cars came sooner. My mother-in-law was also moving at the same time and ended up giving us quite a bit of furniture, which was a godsend as we needed to fill a house, and furniture stores were closing down. The original movers she booked canceled on us less than a week before the scheduled move (scared of coronavirus), and my aunt helped me find a moving company that turned it all around in two days. But that's a story for another time.
I write this now, sitting in our new home, surrounded by trees and halfway furnished - and I realize I'll never take the security of health for granted again. I don't know what the future holds. I pray that life goes back to "normal" for everyone, but it's hard to see how that will happen. All we can do right now is take the little things we have and appreciate them every single moment.
SF to Virginia:
All American Trucking and Transport
In state movers (Virginia):
Ace Moving and Storage