12 February 2016

Second Home

Philadelphia skyline from Camden ferry
When I was 18, I returned from a year abroad not to my idyllic home in the woods but to near-Center City Philadelphia, in mid-July no less. It wasn't alien territory but it was a shock to be crammed into a 3-story vintage-1800s brick townhouse with almost no yard, ringed (swathed, surrounded) by concrete leading to more concrete. My parents had fled quiet suburbia for something a bit livelier, and I could not for the life of me understand why. I was likely a bit peevish about that (to say the least, and I came home a bit radicalized (Europe in the mid-1980s was going an opposite direction from Morning-in-America era US), and, I'll admit, a good 15-20 pounds heavier from all the Belgian chocolate and beer I'd enjoyed. Mom and I were having, shall we say, adjustment difficulties, and I think she'd gotten used to her new, unfeathered empty nest and lots of free time with my dad.

Local color, Queen Village section of Philadelphia
So I walked. A lot. Amidst the concrete were many trees and  lovely parks small and grand, and also lots of cool stores. This was way better than a mall or suburban plaza - it was funky and quirky and weird and new to me. I could walk to grand department stores and eat at food trucks (this was way before they were cool) or corner restaurants. I could keep walking with a nice view of the Delaware river, too, which made me want to walk more and, a good side benefit, fight less with Mom. A few months later I left for college, but finances drove me back home to Philly and I lived there another five years while working and finishing up college.And walking, always walking.
I love Philly now. If I lived there, I'd have to have a house with a big private back yard and lots of tall trees all around (and therefore also a fabulous job to fund such a luxury), and I know I'd never be bored. The kids might like it, too, though they didn't care much for the humidity. Ever wonder what life would be like if you'd taken a different path? We can't find out (in this lifetime, anyway), but it's nice to revisit an old home with new eyes and to introduce it to new people.

Chilling at 3 Bears Park, Society Hill area of Philadelphia

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