Sunday, September 8, 2013

The Pittsburgh Post

Carnegie Library, Oakland

Last month we went on a little trip to Pittsburgh.  I have a great affection for this city—the city of our first years of marriage, the city of Amabel's birth.  For me Pittsburgh will always be wrapped up with those years of newness and change and love.

We went back last month so Jeffrey could work and the girls and I could explore and visit friends.  (Although I later told Jeffrey that if we would have gone to Pittsburgh just to ride the bus, the girls would have been perfectly happy.  So much to see!  So many people to watch!  And no seat belts!  Jeffrey, the mass-transit lover that he is, was quite pleased.)  

Much has changed since we moved away seven years ago, but there remains an underlying feeling of greatness in Pittsburgh that is hard to put into words.  I felt it immediately as we entered the city on a humid night, just after a downpour.  After driving all day through miles of rolling forests and flat corn fields, we snaked our way down the hills to where the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers join, arriving amid the towering buildings and sidewalks steaming in the August air.  There at last, we opened all the car windows and let Pittsburgh seep in.

As the girls and I made our way through city on foot and by bus over the following days, I was reminded again and again of the greatness of this place.  But I couldn't quite put my finger on how to describe it until we were playing in front of the main branch of the Carnegie Library in Oakland where I read the inscription over the arched doorways:

FREE TO THE PEOPLE

And then it occurred to me: this is Pittsburgh.  All the rich history, magnificent architecture, beautiful churches, natural parks, diverse neighborhoods—all of it free for anyone to explore.  All you have to do is walk around and soak it up.

The Big Dino

Oakland

Phipps

Of course, we have our own history there too.  And that's what makes it particularly special for us to go back.  I loved walking with the girls through Mellon Park where I taught children how to knit at a summer art camp.  That summer I was hugely pregnant and every afternoon I would walk 14 blocks from our apartment up what seemed like an endlessly long, steep hill to the top of the park where classes were held.  

Going up that same path with Amabel and Ellen skipping along beside me, picking up handfuls of acorn tops, the hill didn't seem nearly as big as I'd remembered it!

Mellon Park

Mellon Fountain

But the very best part of the trip, for me, was spending time with my dear friend Jenny and watching our children play together.

My Jenny!

A & A

Eight years ago, Jenny and I met in a prenatal yoga class.  This yoga class had a unique component: our wonderful teacher, Sheila, told birth stories while we stretched.  After each woman in the class had given birth, she was invited to share her story over the phone with Sheila who would then recount it to the rest of us still-pregnant, soon-to-be mamas.  I remember clearly the night our teacher shared Jenny's birth story.  I think I knew then that she and I would become friends.

Buddies

We did become friends.  And during our visit to the city last month, Jenny's four children (no longer babies!) and my two (no longer babies!) quickly became friends in the very same neighborhood where Jenny and I met.

Three Girls

After all, it's not just any friend who will clear her schedule for the better part of three days just to have time to talk . . . and then come to my hotel room and take rockin' photos of my girls (dressed up like nuns) jumping on the bed!

Photo by Jennifer Stein
Photo by Jennifer Stein
Photo by Jennifer Stein

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