Last month I did something I had never done before – I left Chris and the girls and flew across the country to visit friends for a weekend in Pittsburgh.
Every year since I moved away from New York, my friends Laura and Margarete have been coming to visit me – first via car and ferry to Nantucket, then flying all the way out to Colorado last summer. I’d never previously felt ready to be away from Nora and Zara, and we’d also never had the budget for any special trips, so, being the wonderful friends that they are, Laura and Margarete always came to see me.
This summer, though, things were looking different: Chris and I had finally sold our Wyoming house, we paid off the last of our student loans, and Zara was getting more and more independent. Suddenly I felt emotionally ready and financially able to turn the tables on our annual reunion. Chris agreed, and one month ago today, I packed a suitcase and boarded a plane for Laura’s new home town, Pittsburgh. Margarete drove in from New York and I was able to spend three wonderful days with two of my dearest friends.
Laura was an amazing tour guide and pretty much convinced me that I should be living in Pittsburgh. One of my favorite things about the east is how steeped in history the cities are, and Pittsburgh was no different. It was fascinating to see the old neighborhoods filled with row houses and Victorian architecture, many surrounding past factory buildings from Pittsburgh’s industrial heyday. Various parts of the city are still very much in the early stages of revitalization, some more forgotten than others, but each neighborhood has its own unique character and beauty. From what Laura said Pittsburgh is making great strides, and has a wonderful arts scene, with a melting pot of cultures. When I called Chris at the end of each day, relaying what we had seen and done, I found myself surprisingly drawn to the city. I’ve never thought of myself as someone who enjoys especially big cities or urban living, but I can see why Laura loves it…not to mention, did you know you can buy an entire house there for like $30,000!? Seriously.
On her way to convincing me that my family lives in the wrong city, Laura took Margarete and me to some wonderful restaurants, and led us on walking trips through several different neighborhoods, with stops at Neu Kirche (a nonprofit contemporary arts center of which she is on the board and who is one of my clients), The Mattress Factory, Randyland, and Phipps Conservatory. She treated us to massages (best hostess ever) and yoga, and everything was just like old times. I am always in awe of how the three of us can pick up like no time has passed, even when we’re all living in different states and are in very different parts of our lives. We can go from laughing hilariously at Margarete’s selfie stick (perhaps one of the best ridiculous things ever) to serious to anything in between without pause, and always find ourselves talking until well past midnight. We just get each other. Laura didn’t even find it at all odd when I asked if she wanted to meander through Allegheny Cemetery to look at the old gravestones.
My Pittsburgh trip was a wonderful girl’s weekend and chance to reconnect with friends, but it was more than that too. The trip to Pittsburgh was also a symbol of the fact that I am in a different place in my life. In a way, just being able to go was a celebration of how hard Chris and I have worked to be in a place where cross-country pleasure trips are financially feasible. That Nora and Zara survived just fine without me, highlights that our family is growing and moving forward, and entering a new phase. At times when day to day things seems hard or exhausting or overwhelming, its memories like this that keep me going. Good friends, exploring an interesting city, and little glimpses of what the future might hold.