Loving

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Today, this 30th day of December, is our last in Pittsburgh. The house is sold, quiet, and for a short spell, empty. Our car is packed to the gills and ready to roll along home to Colorado. Colorado, where we were born and raised, landlocked anchor to our drifting hearts.

When we are far greyer than we are now, and reminiscing about our life, we’ll gaze at each other and say, “Do you remember that year we lived in Pennsylvania?” We’ll wonder aloud if maybe it was a wild shared dream, the two of us living in what our friends called the mansion, a century-old beauty of red brick, chock full of gleaming wood, stained glass, four fireplaces, and three stories, the top most we rarely visited, save to gaze upon and photograph the sky.

We will, always and forever, be glad for our choice, to have been courageous enough to pick up sticks and live on the other side of the continent and known yet another part of America: the undulating hills, hardwood forests, ravines and deep river valleys; the diversity, having come from the whitest city of Portland; the kind faces of generations of poverty and souls broken by back-breaking labor, giving all they had; the vast brick mansions, museums, and every last vestige of the steel age; the wretched air pollution and ridiculously high property taxes that buy virtually nothing ($7,200 on a $200,000 house!); the road trips to places we had longed to see: Pennsylvania, Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, the New York and Quebec countryside.

We will smile, conjuring the streets of Bellevue: the kids of all ages at the skate park, the fabulous library, the lights at holiday time; the pitch perfect weather and four gloriously distinct seasons; the new vocabulary and that crazy Pittsburgh accent, how we drove sahth on the parkway with a bunch of nebby jagoffs to go aht dahntahn, bought groceries at the Giant Iggle, and watched the STLRS play.

We will remember surviving and thriving during a year of massive grief and wonder: a mother with breast cancer, a cousin with a cancerous brain tumor, a soul broken enough to attempt suicide, the sorrowful loss of our beloved cats and our two grandmothers; the quiet evenings of summer, lying, jubilant and awestruck, under a sky alive and shimmering with fireflies; the hills ablaze with the dazzling colors of fall; having walked and driven, mile after mile, eager and curious, to big places and small spaces, forests and towns, and gotten lost, lost, lost.

We will be glad to have learned more of our own selves, the roots we never knew we had: how living in and amongst the rolling hills and winding roads of Appalachia drove us absolutely mad, and flat cities with grid systems make us as giddy as children with a secret; how we found a gaping hole in our collective soul, one that could only be filled with the nearness of our aging family and the dreamy-big skies, sage scrubland and open spaces, and mountains, giants snow-capped and cloaked in evergreen, of the West; how there was simply no substitute for being T H E R E.

Most of all, we will be grateful to have such marvelously generous and big-hearted Pittsburgh friends: Peggy. Mike. Kristen. Patrick. Dale. Therese. Dan. Janet (times two!). Ron. Megan. Tricia. Jonathan. Andrew. Kelly. Beth. Peter. George. Jordan. Rose. The beautiful women of the Non-Native Pittsburgher Women’s Social Meetup. The Sisters at Bethany House. The creative men and women of my Writer’s Group. The kindly businessmen and women of Bellevue. The cashiers at the Whole Foods in Wexford. To all, we give our love and sincerest thanks.

It was a great and wonderful year. Here’s to an even better 2016!

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A hodge podge of photos, a pack of stray cats…

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It is a miracle if you can find true friends, and it is a miracle if you have enough food to eat, and it is a miracle if you get to spend your days and evenings doing whatever it is you like to do, and the holiday season – like all the other seasons – is a good time not only to tell stories of miracles, but to think about the miracles in your own life, and to be grateful for them…

Lemony Snicket

Two of my favorite people live here!

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Today is my Grandma’s birthday. I am dancing to Motown and baking Biscochitos, some of her favorite cookies, in between great belly laughs at our shared memories and hearty sobs that she is not alive. Since I cannot call her to say Happy Birthday and am glad she was born, I talk to her in my head. I tell her that I miss her and that I love these pictures, that they capture her spirit and make me glad to have known her for so long. I tell her that I am well and the hubster, too. The neighbors put up their holiday lights, and the block looks so pretty. I tell her that it is raining, and November in Pittsburgh was the warmest since the Hoover Administration. I wonder, how old were you then? A teenager, maybe? Oh, and I’m trying something a little different with the cookies. Hopefully they’ll turn out the way I am anticipating. I’ll let you know. I love you, Grandma. Have a great day…

In Montreal now, with the cousins and their new kitty, Moon Pie. I love how little R reached out for the hubster’s hand in the family photo, her heart full of love (and mischief), her brother’s, too. They are good and smart and fun and funny, testament to the goodness of their Papa, too. We had our Montreal poutine (the best of this trip) together at Lester’s, an old school deli that smokes its own meat. We walked, ran, jumped, walked some more, spun, and ate and drank enough to fill hollow legs, yet never saw the kiddos tire nor lose their sense of curiosity and wonder. It was great to be together.

We stayed in the same place as our last trip to Montreal, and though the neighborhood has changed, with construction and new restaurants and shops to explore, we were delighted that we remembered our way around. We made a near daily pilgrimage to the Atwater Market and enjoyed a feast for our eyes and bellies, breakfast pastries and decadent treats from Premiere Moisson, every bite as good as our memory, before walking along the Canal Lachine and circling back home.

We were stunned to find a segment of the Berlin Wall (a gift in celebration of Montreal’s 350th birthday), all nonchalant in a shopping gallery.

Wanderings downtown and in the Old City. The Canadoan Coat of Arms – From Sea to Sea. The Giant dome and enormous cast iron pillars of Marche Bonsecours, full of shops featuring local goods. I doubt you’llĀ  be surprised to learn that I bought soap.

More good food! There is no shortage of it in Montreal. Tacos Victor is a postage stamp of a place, mostly standing room, but their tacos are well worth it. In a rather surprising Pittsburgh twist, they are topped with really good French fries. And finally, the Montreal Bagel! I’m not much of a bagel person. I’ll take a pumpernickel or a peppercorn potato, with a heavy schmear of cream cheese, maybe a sprinkle of salt and pepper, a couple times a year. Then I met the Montreal on our last trip and started to dream about them. Baked in a wood-fired oven, with a dense crumb, the bagel is chewy and made a tad sweet by the addition of honey, covered in either poppy seeds (black) or sesame seeds (white). I am a bigot bagel eater because I only like mine white.

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