At one point during our week-long stay with my mother-in-law, in the Dupont Circle neighborhood of Washington, DC, I looked down at the sidewalk and thought: There’s no poop on the street.
I could point to a dozen different points that led me to the decision we’ve made recently, but for me, that’s the moment that stands out: there’s no poop on the street. San Francisco is beautiful, one of the most beautiful cities in the world, but it has a serious poop problem, at least in my neighborhood. It didn’t bother me until I had a toddler who routinely bends down and pokes the sidewalk. Now it bothers me a lot.
Point #2: a friend of David’s from high school offered me a job. A year out, he said, but if I’m looking to move, he’s got one waiting for me.
Point #3: I really, really, really hate traveling to visit family over the holidays.
Which led us to a four-hour conversation along the National Highway that boiled down to: maybe we ought to move to Pittsburgh.
I grew up about 50 miles outside of Pittsburgh, but my folks are both from the city. (Although, given that they’ve spent two-thirds of their lives in the country, they’re really from there now.) I said for the longest time I didn’t want to live in southwestern PA again, but I always added this caveat: When my grandmother’s generation is too old to vote, Pittsburgh’s going to be THE place to live. Over vacation, as I watched my grandmother crying as she held Gillian, saying she thought she’d never live to see the day, I thought: Hey, that time is now. Even the Washington Post thinks so.
That probably sounds pretty callous. But for a long time, Allegheny County was old–as old as Miami-Dade County in Florida–and often didn’t want to invest in the things that keep a city thriving. Fortunately, Pittsburgh’s businesses did well on their own: the Steelers could well be renamed the Bankers. Or the Doctors. There’s always been great culture there–Andrew Carnegie, robber baron industrialist extraordinaire, had a great sense of noblesse oblige, and built a handful of museums, and the local universities have taken care of the rest.
But I love San Francisco. I like our apartment–we worked so hard at it! But with the arrival of Gillian, priorities began shifting: I would’ve liked to have my mother around for the bedrest and the NICU and all that. We bought a Murphy bed to get back a few square feet of space. Eliza’s almost 2 1/2, which means she wants to run around. We have to think about the cluster-you-know-what of school selection in SF School District. And honestly? We just don’t have the energy to live in a space so small anymore.
There’s no closing the bedroom door to hide an unmade bed. Letting the dishes linger on the counter. Having a room where the kids leave their toys out, willy-nilly. Where a lot of people go into their basements for their Christmas decorations, we get City CarShare, hop on the freeway and go to our storage space. We install carseats every time we go anywhere by car. These are all things you know, especially if you’ve been reading this blog for a long time.
Here’s a confession: part of the reason I started this blog was to feel better about all those things. It’s OK. It’s no big deal. Sure, it’s a few extra steps, but look! We get to live in downtown San Francisco. I feel a little like we’re selling out–all this time we’ve spent talking about how urban small-space living is great, just fine, and what are we doing? Looking for a three-bedroom house with a finished basement and a real kitchen. But we’ve reached a tipping point: the sacrifices we’re making for our current living situation are beginning to outweigh the benefits. And when that happens, it’s time to cut losses.
The good news is, my company is not only amenable to me working from Pittsburgh, but they want me to start my own team there, a career opportunity that’s as huge as it is surprising. We’re looking at rentals for houses–real houses, with porches and garages–for the same amount of rent we’re currently paying. We’re looking at listings for homes for sale, and it’s not just lookie-loo fantasy shopping. The neighborhoods where we’re apartment-hunting are old, with walkable business districts, tree-lined streets and old brick arts-and-crafts homes. We’ll be able to give the girls a greener life. And we won’t have to count quarters every time we want to do laundry.
No, it’s not San Francisco. I’ll miss my friends here. And also the weather, of course–who’s insane enough to move to Pittsburgh in February? But my long dream-vacation in the city by the Bay has come to an end. And honestly, I have no idea what I’ll be blogging about once we no longer need to build a wall of shelves to hide away extra clothes. We’ll see.