It is often said that life comes full circle. When I decided to attend Indiana University-Bloomington, a school my dad graduated from, I thought my life had come full circle. But now I know it didn't. That came a few years later.
I come from a family of Pittsburghers -- at least on my mother's side. My mother was born at Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC, as was my grandmother. My mother spent her early years living with my grandparents in Squirrel Hill before moving to Miami. This is sort of ironic as, fast forward a few decades, I followed a similar path -- moving from Squirrel Hill to Weston, Fla., a suburb 20 minutes west of Fort Lauderdale.
But my Steel City roots date back earlier than my mom's. My grandparents were born, raised and met in Pittsburgh. Two of my great-grandmothers were born in McKeesport.
While I was never really a Pittsburgher -- never living in the city for more than two and a half years -- I found myself back among the three rivers, living in Squirrel Hill and interning at the Post-Gazette for the summer. Some asked, why Pittsburgh. Others, whenever I said I went to Indiana University, said something along the lines of "Oh, you are a local," assuming that I meant IUP. I quickly learned to specify that I meant the IU in the state of Indiana.
But it was nice to be considered a local because in many ways I was -- I was living in a regular house with family friends in a Pittsburgh neighborhood and riding the bus to and from work every day. It was as if I was returning home after a hiatus of a couple decades away, trying to gain my footing in the 'Burgh once again.
This summer isn't my first time living in Squirrel Hill. When my dad was transferred to Pittsburgh for work in 1992 when I was 7 months old, we lived a few streets down from where I am living now. I left when I was 3.
I am living with family friends who met my mom and grandparents when they lived in the neighborhood years ago. One of them, whom I knew as Aunt Sara, became quickly known as my Pittsburgh grandmother and this summer I am living in her old home with her two daughters. My parents and I made several trips back to Pittsburgh over the years to visit with family and old friends, but it was for never more than a week.
As a young child, I went to the same pediatrician that my mother went to when she was living in Pittsburgh. I went to Kindermusik classes at the Wightman School, where my grandmother attended.
Like any chapter of life, my time in Pittsburgh came to an end when my dad's company transferred him to South Florida with the promise of starting his own company and enabling us to live near my grandparents.
So while it's been 18 years since I've called Pittsburgh home, it has been nice to be back home -- even if it was just for a summer.
If I learned one thing this summer about the city, it is that once a Pittsburgher, always a Pittsburgher. Very few leave the city and if you do, you seem to find a way back, one way or another. If you don't, Pittsburgh always seems to make a way back into your life.
Even though I am not technically a Pittsburgher -- born in Chicago and raised in Weston, Fla. -- I feel a special connection with the city that is so important to my family and ancestry. Knowing that I am living in a city where so many family members resided is special since I wasn't alive to know all of them. I'll admit that I am in denial that I am leaving this city that has become home. Along the way, I became a Buccos fan -- and no, I didn't just jump on the bandwagon.
During the course of the summer, I received a phone call from a woman whom I knew when I lived here as a child -- I apparently used to have play dates with her daughter. I walked the streets that my grandparents and mother once walked in Squirrel Hill, driving by my grandfather's and grandmother's childhood homes.
I saw where they went to high school: Taylor Allderdice and Peabody for my grandmother and grandfather, respectively. Before my grandfather passed away in January, I remember one of my last conversations with him was about Pittsburgh and how excited he was that I was getting the opportunity to spend the summer in his old hometown.
It's funny how life works itself out sometimes. Who knew that my parents would move back to Pittsburgh and who knew that almost two decades later, I would be brought back? So, while now I must say goodbye to this wonderful city, I am so glad that life came full circle and allowed me to be a "Pittsburgher" again.
So the next time people ask me, why Pittsburgh, or what led you to come here for the summer, the answer will be simple: It was time for me to return to my roots.
Claire Aronson: email@example.com or Twitter @Claire_Aronson.