"We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time." TS Eliot

Friday, February 25, 2011

The Street I Live On

When we moved to Pittsburgh in 2008 I never thought we would end up in Greenfield.

Growing up I had short glimpses of this neighborhood as seen through my father's eyes. I heard the stories about the nuns at St. Rosalia's. Some of them were kind. One in particular would put my dad on a city bus and send him on errands for school supplies. Some were not so kind. There was one sister who slapped my dad so hard in the face his glasses flew off and broke. My grandmother went down after incident and I am sure terrified that nun into submission. My dad's mom was not one to mince words. It seemed to me a tough place to grow up.

And having grown up in the suburbs, Greenfield was always a bit visually jarring to me. It was and is a little rough around the edges. Ironically, not a whole lot of green is visible. And during my childhood Pittsburgh was still experiencing growing pains as the economy recovered from the failure of the steel mills.

So when considering neighborhoods to buy a house in I actually laughed and said to my husband "Wouldn't it be funny if we ended up in Greenfield?" So when a house that looked perfect for us went up for sale on the street my father grew up on we went to see it. It fit the bill in all aspects and we bought it. Funny indeed.

I often think of my father walking up and down these streets as a child. I do not think of him as being a particularly light or happy child. Although I am sure his wicked sense of humor existed even when he was small. I see him in the little boy who walks by himself down the street to the neighborhood school and I wish that I could have known that child. Much of that longing exists because there was a part of my father that was always unknowable to me and somewhat removed.

It has been 8 years since my father died of lung cancer. And I always wish that he would visit me in my dreams more often or send me a sign. Feeling a little sorry for myself the other day about this lack of signs, I had a minor epiphany. Maybe my dad is communicating with me. I am afterall raising my own children one block down the hill from where he lived out his own childhood. And I am trying to parent my children with a little more kindness,humor and a respect for how they feel than what he may have experienced as a child. I hope I am making him proud.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Road Rage Greenfield Style

Growing up, my dad's step-father was always a bit intimidating. I'd heard stories of his hard drinking, yelling and general meanness. By the time I came along, Frank had mellowed out a bit, except when behind the wheel of his Chevy. Frank was always in the driver's seat, my grandmother sat in the back seat while their cocker spaniel, Mr. Crocker, rode shot gun. It seemed to me that the instant his butt hit that seat a stream of expletives would ensue. My personal favorite was always "jag-off!" I assumed that this behavior was a direct illustration of his angry and difficult personality. Then I moved back to Pittsburgh and bought a home in my Grandparents' neighborhood, Greenfield. Greenfield is known for its steep hills. I've heard tales of teenagers with their newly minted driver's licenses joy riding up and down these hills all in an effort to catch a little air. Also, the streets of Greenfield are narrow and few people have driveways. Cars park in any direction they please on both sides of the road. Sometimes, people park on sidewalks. This is all pretty standard in this neighborhood. Don't get me started on snow and ice, the weird traffic patterns and the conditions of the streets. After living here for two years I find myself not so quietly simmering when behind the wheel. "Why won't that person move over?" I holler when driving my kids to school. Not too long ago I had an epiphany. Maybe Frank wasn't all bad. Maybe a lifetime of driving in Greenfield had a Pavlovian affect on him when he hopped behind the wheel. I have observed this attribute in myself. And I am normally the kind of person who strives for compassion and thinks that our similarities as humans are more powerful than our differences. But not when I sit behind the wheel of my Mazda 5. During those moments I channel Frank and yell, with a smile "That Jag-off!".