Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

She Seeks Embrace of City in Same Way as Mountains Gave

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

She Seeks Embrace of City in Same Way as Mountains Gave

Article excerpt

It was 120 miles, give or take, from our home in Appalachia to the new one in Pittsburgh.

The GPS said to drive on an interstate, go north on a U.S. highway, and then take the turnpike through southwestern Pennsylvania. But the locals back in Maryland go through Barrelville, over Wellersburg Mountain. It would be approximately 114 miles this day, which would melt away in the rearview mirror.

Six miles less is six miles -- not much, about 10 minutes at the speed limit. Six miles. Ten minutes. Not much ... unless calculated over a lifetime.

I had come to the mountains decades before, not expecting to stay. I came that first time from the Pittsburgh airport, through a wintry landscape where roads were piled high on either side with mounds of Appalachian snow, more than I had ever seen. It was in the "before" time -- before kids, before job, before mortgage, even before marriage.

And before local. Before being of a place and knowing the expressions and phrases, the asides, the anecdotes, the history. Before knowing the family names, the lore, the hauntings, the food and eccentricities of a place, and being able to laugh before the punchline.

The Maryland residents around Cumberland and Frostburg were mountain people. Rednecks. Kin. Family. Hillbillies. Locals. Brand them what you will, but they had taken me in.

And I had become of the place, but now my husband and I were leaving family with foot to the pedal. Driving on.

As 114 miles passed in my rearview mirror, I watched mountains recede into hills and small towns into suburbs. Suburbs passed into tomorrow.

It reminded of other leavings, other goodbyes, other times I had been "local." Each goodbye had been planned -- an opportunity, yet a necessity. An opportunity to grow local in a new story.

Bob was at my side, my friend and husband of 41 years. I thought of him as my gardener, the one who nurtured. He was the one who had rescued me in a way, long ago when I was young and lacking in confidence. …

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