Does knowing a history make us love places more?
I tried to move away from Tulsa and back to Pittsburgh for the first three years we lived in Oklahoma. Everything, I decided, was better in the ‘burgh. We had better weather, better sports, better landscape, better highways, better people (my family is there, so you’ll forgive me this point).
As our children were born, all of them Okie bred, my affinity for our quirky small city grew. But only in the last year have I begun, after 17 years, to fall in love with this town.
Pittsburgh has a history that reaches before the Revolutionary War. Native Americans climbed over the mountains in winter, the Three Rivers merged and poured through the valley at the point of conflict. Much as settlers poured into the valley, created jobs, forging a living out of steel.
While Tulsa can not claim a known history that dates as far back, we’ve managed to fill our short span of statehood with plenty of tension and spirit. I find myself drawn backward to these watershed moments again and again. Knowing the story behind the buildings that crawl along Greenwood and Archer, where one of the deadliest American race riots took place, I am ashamed. But, something about the determination of past and current generations to keep the story known makes me proud, too.
Pittsburgh holds a kind of ethereal draw for me; my own history is tied to the history of the city. So much of my life happened there. As the years have past the memories have been shined to a rosy goodness that fact could not begin to approach. I’m enough of a realist to know this.
And now, so much of my life has happened in Tulsa. It’s not just a shared history that has allowed me to find a certain magic in the place I resisted. Curiosity and questions have revealed a Tulsa I never knew; the history after the race riot is only part of it. The discovery of oil, the building of skyscrapers, the underground tunnels, the railroad tracks, the oil bust, Route 66, all of it seem to give Tulsa its character.
Are we that way with people, too?