Friday, January 13, 2012

The Four Seasons of the Burgh, Part One

When my actual first anniversary of living in the capital of Steeler Nation comes up I will actually be in another state altogether celebrating the marriage of my Lovely Philly friend whom I've mentioned many times before, so I'll give you a glance back at the year in the life of a city from my point of view a bit early if you don't mind.

Winter 2011:  When Cheyenne and I pulled into the empty little house toward the end of January, snow dominated the landscape and new snow was falling.  I remember standing at the kitchen window for the first time as an actual occupant of the house and thinking that it was just as I remember it and experiencing something akin to joy.  There is something magical and comforting about falling snow when you're safely watching it from a cozy interior.  Then I had to go out in it.  My first order of business was to go to the grocery store.  I made a wrong turn and ended up getting lost right out of the gate, got a little panicked, had a few bad moments, turned myself around and eventually found it (keep in mind that you could realistically walk to our grocery store, it is that close), and a tradition seemingly was born.  If I had a nickel for every time I made a wrong turn, ended up getting lost, panicking about it, but eventually found my way, I'd be able to retire my credit card debt.  Many things about living here have changed for me over the last year, but that, sadly, does not seem to be one of them.

Thinking back on it, my memories of that time are tinted in fear - not of being here on my own with only Cheyenne by my side, but just by finding my way around.  Maybe timidity is a better word for it.  I've often marveled at my own silliness.  Here I was:  the woman who fearlessly uprooted her whole family to come to a strange city and once she got here, just going to the grocery store took a monumental act of courage.  Maybe I spent all the courage I owned on the move, who knows.  But, if not for my Lovely Philly Friend, coming clear across the state several times to drag me out and about, I would have been officially a hermit.

After - All's Well That Ends Well?

Of course, it wasn't like there wasn't adventure enough at my little house to keep me occupied.  Beginning with moving day when three young men had a miserable day of it in bitterly cold, wet sloppy snow trying to jam way too much stuff into the house, trying to work around carpet cleaners who were trying to save the carpet after I had spilled a gallon of trim paint, panicking Cheyenne in the process, who had proceeded to run through it and then on through the house, leaving rust colored paw prints all over the celery carpet only an hour or so before the movers showed up!  There is still evidence of that fateful day in various places throughout the house, in the garage, on a couple pair of my boots, in the driveway, and on the outside trim (long story).  I can say this about myself:  when I make a mess, I do not half-ass it.  Then there was the time I locked myself out of the house after walking the dog without my reading glasses, had to call Greg in Austin to call a locksmith here because I couldn't see to do it, and it took the poor man an hour and a half and an expensive drill bit to get me in.  The moral to that story is that I certainly feel secure here.
The Beauty of Winter

Then the long days that followed trying to sort all of our books, clothes, furniture, Star Wars toys and whatever else I just couldn't live without largely by myself, realizing that nothing was fitting in like I thought it would, so Plan A gave way to Plan B, C and sometimes D.  But, gradually it came together.  I confess that I sometimes look around and marvel that I did it.  It was nothing compared to the transformation Greg and his friends were making on the house back in Texas, but I still take some pride in slamming this much crap in this little of a house and still having room to walk around.

The Ugly Part
Spring:  And that was how winter passed for me and Cheyenne.  Some days were lonely, but a routine developed and gradually the snow gave way to rain and the days lengthened and the roads cleared.  I took some tentative steps out into my new world and got to see native Pittsburghers out and about, and not just when they were coming to rescue me from whatever situation I had created for myself.  It helped that I had some company:  friends from Michigan came for a weekend and my sister-in-law from Arlington flew in, so that took the edge off the solitude and forced me to stretch beyond the four walls just a bit.  As a matter of fact, my sister-in-law was still here when Greg and his friend drove straight through with my zoo in tow and the second round of "stuff".  And, as was no real surprise to me, sadly, Greg and his friend navigated the city neither had spent any time in immediately better than I still could after four months here.  Alas, I am a lost cause...

But, from what I did get out to see and do, I made the observation that spring seems to be a hopeful time here.  Like bears crawling out from hibernation, we turn off our TV's, the hockey season over and football long done, and we re-introduce ourselves to nature.  Walk the dog, go to outdoor art festivals, have friends over to sit by the outdoor fire pit and drink some Iron City or Yuengling.  We begin working in the yard and getting the outdoor furniture out and look forward to summer.  When I look back, it was the only time I can think of that the culture is not dominated by one sport or another.  There is baseball, but the season is just beginning during the spring, and, while I was struck at the level of loyalty the city shows to the Pirates, the expectations are exceedingly low.  Baseball is a third tier sport here, that is just the truth of it.  Yet, I learned what lots of sports fans from here already knew:  it's still fun to go to the game.

Pulling weeds in the front bed after the snow uncovered what a year's worth of no lawn maintenance means
But, in the spring, life is a celebration for its own sake.  Saint Patrick's Day being the Mardi Gras of the East and Easter being the day of atonement a couple of weeks later when the hangovers have worn off. Whatever disappointment fans have over the Steelers or the Pens is behind them, the annual disappointment they will experience about the Pirates is some time off in the future, so spring - at least in my Catholic-dominated part of the world - is about beginning anew.

The Pirates on Easter - they may not be all that good, but check out that view

But, it's easy to be optimistic when you can open your windows and enjoy the breeze.  Next comes summer...

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