Home for the Holidays

As a person who has moved a lot, I’ve called many places home. But some are closer to the heart than others.

Going home for the holidays is always one of the best things we can do for our hearts. Luckily, the pandemic let up enough in most of December to allow us to cross the threshold of those we love. Cruising down 79, I happily anticipate visiting Mt. Lebanon—the place my family of five called home for 12 years before a series of fun decisions led us to move to a farm up north.

When I get off the exit, there’s a peaceful rain falling in the December twilight.

The familiar traffic jam on Cochran near Osage adds red brake lights to the holiday lights in the trees. Grand houses with expansive lawns give way to smaller, pretty houses, tightly packed like presents in a row. Through the light at Bower Hill, I note the crepe place, Mel’s Petit Bakery, new to me since I moved away from this modern Bedford Falls. Where crepes now sizzle, once stood “my” consignment shop.

Just down and across the street, the wedding boutique of my gown and bridesmaids’ dresses glimmers as always. My appetite reminds me, as I pass La Gourmandine, the French bakery, to go there tomorrow morning and stock up.

Driving up past the high school, I marvel at how huge it is and how my kids felt so small inside of it, yet they were propelled by it into their current successes. I wonder if we’d stayed, what experience my youngest daughter, now in a rural high school, would have had. Looking down at the parking lot, images of teaching the girls how to drive there, hundreds of bleary-eyed drop-offs and walking home from a zillion swim meets is so visceral I can smell the chlorine.

Reaching the pinnacle of Cochran, at that “only-locals-can-figure-it-out” intersection with Washington Road, I take in the pretty décor in all directions. As reliable as the coffee at the local shop, I knew the neighborhood would be decorated to the hilt.

My truck rolls over the cobblestone-turned pavement slowly now, at my destination. The sense of being home washes over me. Neither I nor my husband grew up here. I am not related to anyone here. But raising three daughters in Mt. Lebanon meant that I was immersed in this community. I played a series of roles. Coach, volunteer, mentor, parent, neighbor, entertainer, pepperoni roll sales delivery person, but most importantly, friend.

I don’t need a guardian angel to show me how many lives we touch when we’re surrounded by friends. From surviving little kid parties, any number of life’s challenges, to sharing more than a decade of new years, my friendships in this town have shaped who I am, and hopefully I, in some small way, helped them find their way too.

Walking up to the light of the house, familiar laughter trickles out. I don’t need to knock here. I walk in, set my overnight bag down and announce: “I’m home!” Because I am.

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