Sometimes you find joy in unexpected places. A white-knuckle drive across the state after learning of my daughter’s concussion didn’t prepare me for a three-day getaway, but that’s exactly what happened. Silver linings appear when perspective meets an open mind. In my case, it was in Pittsburgh, PA. Who knew? It didn’t start that way. When your child is hurt, you can feel your stomach muscles and jaw clench. You need to get there, see for yourself, and do your best to make things right. It’s part of the mom job description that doesn’t change, even when they grow up. It doesn’t matter that it’s dark and raining and three hours away. What matters is being there.
Campus was out of the question. How do you relax in the midst of everything you’re supposed to be doing? At mid-terms? A quick search on Airbnb led me to a charming little house, promising a view. Six hours from initial contact that afternoon to booking to arrival after a four hour drive, I was standing on a porch overlooking the beautiful lights of downtown Pittsburgh and the Monongahela River from atop a community dotted with viewing platforms above the city’s famous inclines. Pittsburgh is a city of bridges, and the view from above let us see bridges linking both sides of the city. Home to more than a dozen universities, Pittsburgh also has intricate architecture. This night it looked like a snow globe from our perch above the city. Light and bright, we wrapped up in colorful blankets on a huge sofa, sipping cups of Yorkshire Gold tea. Furnished with comfortable beds, soft bedding and a fully-equipped kitchen, we had found the perfect haven to relax, all for $60 a night, plus fees.
A concussion means most everything is off-limits. No television. No computer. No checking your phone. Not even a puzzle. But we could walk, admire the twinkling view and explore the steeply canted community. First stop was under the black awning of the Micro Diner. Small, with less than a dozen tables, our waitress gave us a warm welcome with our coffee. Breakfast for dinner provided crisp potato pancakes carefully stacked next to perfectly cooked eggs and crunchy, salty bacon. I haven’t had potato pancakes in more than 30 years. My great Uncle Johnny used to make them when I was a child at his home south of Pittsburgh; it was a treat we’d only get at his house. Afterward, we were allowed to pick as many purple oblong plums as we could carry from the backyard trees. The potato pancakes at the Micro were served with applesauce and they’d certainly give my late uncle a run for his money.
The local market wasn’t a big superstore, but it was .2 miles from our “home” and filled with local shoppers. We grabbed grapefruit-sized navel oranges and ingredients for homemade scones and headed back inside to wait for the predicted snow. Armed with cups of strong Irish tea, we huddled under a luxurious throw on the sofa, peeking out the window at our magnificent view and talking about small things. It was better than wonderful.
After watching the snow most of the following day, we ventured out to The Shiloh Grill. We had looked up the menu online and were amused by their irreverent sense of humor. “Come to Mount Washington for the view. Stay for the Bacon.” How could we not go? A five minute walk and we were in, seated on high chairs and warming up fingers and toes. Sean recommended the macaroni and cheese. Not just any macaroni and cheese. Mine was a huge bowl, topped with crispy bread crumbs, bacon, breakfast sausage and an egg, over easy. It was better than wonderful. Even though I tried to finish, I eventually admitted defeat. My leftovers were boxed up and we headed off in search of a sweet for later.
Luckily for us, the Grandview Bakery & Sweet Shop was still open. We perused all the chocolate making supplies and finally settled on bread pudding and burnt almond cupcakes. Ten minutes later we were headed home with a white bakery box and plans for more tea.
After three days of small moments and conversation, my daughter was ready to head back to campus, and I headed back home as well. The concussion is fading, but the warm feeling of unexpected pleasures in a little house atop the city remain. Silver linings can show up when you least expect. Sometimes they come with a view. Sometimes you need to get there first, to get your breath back, to see for yourself.
The next time life hands you something you’d just as soon pass by, take a moment and check for that silver lining. Oftentimes it’s there, we just forget to look.