My column about moving out of the Pittsburgh house brought a lot of old friends out of the woodwork and I had some really nice exchanges with several people in the last week. I wanted to share some of them here. Since I didn’t ask folks how they felt about it, I’ll leave names off. All of these are people I haven’t been in touch with for anywhere from 10-20 years.
I really can’t express how much these mean to me. Honestly, I wouldn’t trade having had these three people read that article for having 20,000 strangers read it, or being on the cover of Esquire or whatever.
One high school friend writes: I know what you mean when you say that the move out of Pittsburgh was in some ways a bigger deal than the move to Asia. Even though D.C. feels a lot more like the Old Country than San Francisco did, there is a feeling of displacement that I will never shake.
Having grown up thinking that everyone always comes back to Pgh., I am still in a sort of shock that so few of us did. And worse, when I go there now (my mom having sold our house about 5 years ago), it doesn’t even feel like my Pgh. anymore. Mostly when we’re there I’m seeing older people, and it feels … old. I especially think about this with my kids, like, what kind of life are they going to have not being in Pgh., not being surrounded by family, etc. It is a perpetual weirdness.
Another old bud, a fellow member of the Rodelf Shalom fighting Orange hoops team weighs in: I hope this message find you well. What a great reflection of what family means and the values that were instilled in you by your parents as a kid but even more specific what it means to be a true Pittsburgher expat. We are an amazing group of people that seem to be everywhere for a city that was never really that big.
I have been living outside of DC, for almost 20 years now, and when my parents sold our house 15 years ago to move down to DC to be closer to all of their kids, it was very strange no longer making that Thanksgiving trip (mind you I don’t miss the traffic) on Wednesday to drink in Shady Side or play in the turkey bowl Thursday morning (limping home is so spot on as it is no fun getting old). You realize though that the memories never fade and with all tales only grow stronger over time.
On one of my trips back to the Burgh recently I got a chance to go back into my old house with my kids and do a true memory lane moment (ok 45 minutes and had to be dragged out). It was surreal to say the least but as I left the house I realized that it was the family in the house that made it special not the house.
Sorry for the rambling but wanted to drop a note and say hello and hope everything is going well for you and your family. And more importantly that while some of the sites and places back home change the city is still the same – intimate and friendly.
And then this one from a longtime neighbor:
Hi. This is __, you know the guy that grew up around the corner. I got your article emailed to me from –. I am not an expat, but I did leave home a while ago. My parents sold our house last year. Your article hit home with me. So did the photo. I am a bit chocked up. There was something universally true in your article, and of course there was something that was deeply personal in it considering it many ways it was my exact experience.
I cannot get myself to look in that direction often. It is acknowledging that sense of leaving those good comfortable things behind as we grow. It was a great place to grow up. We become our parents. And they are getting older. All that stuff…