Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Nostalgia Thursday: My Last Week of Living in Pittsburgh

Walking tonight with Rosie, the full moon was stippled by clouds and the crickets kept a quiet chorus. Late August, that mild tease of fall in the breeze, we walked the "cliff" on Fernwald Road, which overlooks hundreds of homes in the distance, their lights on. For the hundreth time, I pause on this hilltop and imagine the people in those homes, watching television, wearing pajamas, having an argument, tucking in their child, looking out their own windows into the distance and dreaming. I have found this view comforting on many nights, through all four seasons. Below me, the traffic slows to a crawl on 376 before it disappears into the Squirrel Hill tunnel. I will miss this view so much, these hillsides, the deer moving up from Frick Park that startle below me at times in the fields, the fat waddle of groundhogs into the brush when they see Rosie coming. It's been too hard to blog these past couple of weeks: overwhelmed by the love and gratitude I want to express to all of my friends here in Pittsburgh---and overwhelmed with all the leave-taking.

So much of who I am, what I value about myself was inspired, nourished and flourished here in Pittsburgh: my poet self, my teacher self, myself as a mother. I was given the gift of becoming "Sharon" here--a distinct individual with her own skills and talents--apart from the eleven siblings with whom I'd felt such a tight kinship. I was NOT just one of the Fagans, a clan well- known and well-liked in our New Jersey community, but a woman given the opportunity to truly grow and grow up in this city far from home.

For instance, my "teacher self" started in a most unlikely way. I had no intention of becoming a teacher, when I moved here straight out of college. I still harbored dreams of being a rock star, having spent the prior four years of college singing and recording with a variety of bands. I also loved writing poetry and had won my college's top Creative Writing medallion award.

But, desperate times called for desperate measures: within two years of moving to Pittsburgh, when I found my marriage crumbling, I needed to find a job quickly that would help support myself and my son. In a brazen act that still makes me laugh to remember it, I literally walked into the principal's office at Shady Lane Preschool, my guitar in hand, and started strumming and singing "Going to the Zoo," by Peter, Paul and Mary, to a most startled woman who knocked her notebook to the floor, so abruptly did she stand up. I thought she would throw me out, crazy intruder that I was, but instead, she hired me as a pre-school music teacher on the spot. Lucky me.

Not only did my son get to attend an amazing pre-school for free, I began my "on the job" training as a teacher. My young self would have been amazed to know, as I handed around tambourines and bells, rain-sticks and wooden blocks that this first teaching job would lead to eight years teaching literature in a private high school, the University School in Shadyside, which would lead to my receiving an MFA in poetry, which ultimately led me to seven years teaching as a Visiting Lecturer in creative writing at the University of Pittsburgh. What a trajectory! From singing dinosaur songs to classes of three and four year old to teaching aspiring young adults to write poetry-----"I'm going to the zoo, zoo, zoo; how about you, you you; YOU can come too, too, too, Oh we're going to the zoo, zoo, zoo!!" Indeed!

...To be continued....

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