It's Day 4 of the Slice of Life Story Challenge, started by Two Writing Teachers. I am writing around the theme topic of "What I Know For Sure." (See Day 1 for a full explanation.)
One of the hardest conversations I've ever had was in 1998. Ed and I had built our first house - a pretty country two-story with a front porch - on 3 acres behind my mom and dad in Mason, Ohio. Libby was 5 and Katie was 2. Ed had been offered a wonderful opportunity with his company, but we would have to move to Pittsburgh. We had built our Mason house on the same property where I had grown up, and it was wonderful to have Mom and Dad steps away. My best friends still lived in the Cincinnati area, we attended a church where we had close relationships, and I had started my teaching career in the same district where I attended grades K-12. The farthest I'd been from Mason was my years in Oxford, Ohio where I attended Miami University (and roomed with high school friends my freshman year), a mere 45 minutes away. Not much had changed in my 33 years. And we had to tell Mom and Dad we had decided to make the move.
I have to give them a lot of credit. They understood and supported us. It was sad for all of us, though. I had to call my friends and tell them the same thing. Again, they supported and encouraged us.. Ed's family lived close by, also, so it was difficult to tell them as well. Even though everyone understood, there were tears. We started the process of visiting Pittsburgh to look at homes, got our house ready to sell and put it on the market, and somehow kept it clean for showings despite pets and two little girls.
The day came when we had to say goodbye to each room of the house (yes, I did that, as corny as it sounds), put our suitcases, boxes of valuable items we didn't want to load into the moving truck, and crates for the dog and cat, and say our final goodbyes to Mom and Dad. Ed had actually gone to Pittsburgh ahead of us since he already started work there. That was the most tearful goodbye I've ever experienced. Libby was crying just as hard as I was. Katie, however, only being 2, wondered what was going on and was ready to find out what Pittsburgh was all about. We finally got into the car and on our way through misty eyes. One of the clearest memories I have that evening was polishing off a whole pound of Peanut M & Ms on that trip. Survival mode.
We had to stay in a hotel several days until moving day arrived. Ed met us there. It was a beautiful hotel suite which allowed pets, and Katie had a blast swimming and eating there. Later, when we moved into our house, it was somewhat of a letdown for her - she kept wanting to "go back to Pittsburgh." Ed had to go out of town for his new job the day before we actually moved into the house. Yes, he still feels guilty about that. Ed has traveled frequently throughout our marriage, and I'm quite independent, so I was okay. I remember buying pizza for the moving guys - they were so nice and helped me tremendously!
Since it was February (1999), the neighborhood was pretty quiet for awhile. Ed's colleagues' spouses, though, were amazing. There were quite a few of us who had moved to Pittsburgh for this small start-up company, and were all in the same boat. They had already formed a close friendship and would get together with their kids. One of the spouses, a stay-at-home dad, was the first one to call and invite me over with the girls to a gathering to meet some people. Our girls and his girls hit it off immediately, which was such a relief. They were essentially the same age and loved playing together. That first day we all got gathered was the start of a wonderful friendship.
When spring hit, one of the neighbor's daughters rang our doorbell with an Easter basket of goodies. Her mom became a close friend, also, and we were blessed with several more neighbor families that moved in over the next couple years who had kids the same age, and we all bonded immediately.
Even though it was hard at first, and I missed my hometown family and friends greatly, those five years became some of the best of my life. Our girls made best friends, we lived in a great neighborhood and school district, my neighbors and Ed's work colleagues became dear friends, and we got to go places and attend events I had never in my wildest dreams thought I would experience. My next door neighbor shared my love of books, and we joined a Newcomers' book club together. We went on vacations with these new friends and shared many meals and conversations. We came to love Pittsburgh, its sports teams (sorry Cincinnatians), Primanti sandwiches (Pittsburghers put fries on EVERYTHING, including sandwiches and salads), and friendliness (their drivers are especially friendly - we learned the term, "Pittsburgh left," meaning when you turn left there, you have the right of way).
Fortunately, most of my friends back home remained close. They would make trips out together several times a year, and we would return to Cincinnati for visits. Friends' Thanksgiving, which originated in college, continued and became weekend events. Those friendships strengthened, and I'm forever grateful they made the effort to embrace my Pittsburgh life. A friendship in State College with one of my college roommates actually rekindled because we were geographically closer. We also did a lot of camping with Ed's sister's family, who live in Connecticut, because we were geographically closer. We explored a lot of wonderful places between Pittsburgh and Farmington with our campers!
Five years later, we decided to move back home for various reasons. Again, it was a tearful goodbye. The girls were so sad to leave their friends, and it was terrible to once again make those phone calls and have those conversations telling people we were leaving. Our friends gave us amazing goodbye parties, through which we laughed and cried. The memories we made there were priceless.
It was wonderful to return home, though. We've spent another very happy 10 years back in the same county where I grew up, and I will forever love and appreciate the people we met and bonded with in Pittsburgh.
What I know for sure: Change is hard, but good. It is inevitable. It expands our horizons and makes us more open-minded, courageous, and adventurous. Good people are everywhere, connections can be made anywhere, and more friendships make a richer life.