There are so many details and emotions I felt – so yes, the emotions right now still are processing but there are a few things I have internalized.
From the moment I truly identified with Pittsburgh, being whisked away in a limousine to Mr. Art Rooney’s wifes’ funeral, seeing the Steelers in their uniforms as a sign of respect, I realized Pittsburgh was the steel, working town, that internalized itself in my bones. The days of sitting in front of the television of my grandparents in Etna, the weekend dinners, the pictures and remnants of Friday Street School where my Mom attended school.
My grandfather’s grit and planning as he designed the railcars of the Chessie System -Student teaching at Oliver High School at the edge of Monroeville would later lead to the later adventure of working for the Pittsburgh Pirates as an intern, the endless adventures of treks into Pittsburgh at night, experiencing the magic of a city reborn every day. I remember leaving a Pittsburgh that was in financial dire straits, a gloom that could not be seen at the time. I did not know I would be leaving Pittsburgh, as well as a lifetime of memories on a shelf that would not be dusted off for so many years later. Yet, I was lucky enough to be surrounded by individuals that carried that Pittsburgh spirit with them, in countries as far as Mexico.
Amid all of this, there were constant friends that had internalized themselves so deep that no matter where I would go, if I was lucky enough to meet those friends again, or still maintain contact with them, a constant thread of our relationships, from Edinboro University, Slippery Rock University, Butler County Community College, and a hundred other places – we were still one in so many ways.
On the plane from Dallas to Pittsburgh, right before landing, a young gentleman leaned over and asked me if I believed in God. I used to peel back and cringe, when that question was asked and expected an uncomfortable discussion. This time I resisted this feeling, and we talked earnestly. He shared his beliefs, I shared mine, we exchanged ideas, and this led to each other finding out about ourselves through location, Pittsburgh, and topics of discussion I would not have predicted to be brought up, and I thought – funny. Religion can be a start to find out about each other, not just an area to be uncomfortable for each other involved, no, it doesn’t have to be that way. Those sentiments walked with me as I found myself experiencing the cold I had forgotten that had defined Pittsburgh for as long as I could remember.
There is is feel that Pittsburgh has, and whether it appears when you are on the South.North Side, the East/West areas, on the incline or at the point, it stays with you always thanks to the people that become part of your thread work life. When I was driving from section to section in Pittsburgh, I found I was amazed at how easily I found myself doing so, expecting to be lost more than having a sense of direction, I found that it seems I had just slipped out of the Pittsburgh scene rather than what seemed a lifetime. That sense of sliding right back in was only a part of what made being back in Pittsburgh so vital in recalling so much of my past and seeing how far I have come. I say I but realize, so many people that supported me from my youngest years to currently had such a major role in that.
I want more time, now that I’ve had a taste of what being home really means – and combined with being able to feel this way and not be in Pittsburgh at all for so long, the magic of being in places that propels me so far in my past and has reminded me, thanks to my friends all along the way, that everyone has a right to feel that way wherever they are. My goal would begin to try and make everyone around me try and feel the same way, and I learned that from Pittsburgh – my friends reminded me that without ever having to be there.
Pittsburgh is what many hear me say, (sometimes yell) often enough, the Steelers, the Penguins, the Pirates, but what Pittsburgh really is, and always will be, is what many will not be able to hear, see but definitely feel. I find that reassuring as I am lucky enough to have such close friends and family that keep this in my heart each day. Pittsburgh intensifies this when I am lucky enough to be embraced from within!