By Nina Betensky
When I moved from Abington to Florida many years ago, I thought that life couldn't possibly get any better. To actually live in a place where people went on vacation was like a dream. Having the beach practically in my backyard instead of sitting on the Atlantic City Expressway for an hour was heaven.
I went through my twenties, my thirties, my forties and early fifties in the Sunshine State. I worked and raised four kids without having to struggle with snowsuits and boots or locate a lost mitten. These lucky kids played soccer in the winter and never experienced the chore of shoveling the walk. Life was easy and we fell into a year-round outdoor routine of school, summer camp, and extra curricular activities.
On the other hand, I was beginning to realize that the weather was the biggest cultural event. As the state's population was exploding, there were gated communities and strip malls under construction everywhere you looked. I was getting a little tired of being the youngest person when dining or going out. I most certainly didn't appreciate having to pay 25% more for my dinner if I got to a restaurant after 5:30.
As the years went by and the seasons became blurred, I finally came to the conclusion that there weren't any seasons. February was August, September was March, they all blurred together. It was time to think about returning home after 29 years.
In June of 2007, my son drove me to the Fort Lauderdale airport where I boarded a plane with my one-way ticket. I had sold my house in the gated community, and had given away my car and all my furnishings. I was going home with one suitcase, embarking on an adventure and starting a new chapter of my life.
I arrived at the beginning of summer and the first thing that struck me about being home were all the familiar scents. The smell of the freshly cut grass in the suburbs and the salt air of the Jersey shore reminded me of my childhood. I could close my eyes and have the same feeling of being six years old again, while strolling the boardwalk. Steele's Fudge and saltwater taffy lured me back with open arms. The summertime was an easy time to transition, considering my wardrobe only consisted of Capris, tanks and flip-flops anyway. In August , I moved to the Art Museum area with my boyfriend and for the first time in my life, I was living in a city.
As the days started to get shorter and the nights cooler, I could once again "smell" fall. I was deliriously happy while walking by Boathouse Row through Fairmount Park with my camera swinging from my shoulder. College students were carrying pillows and moving into the boathouses, dogs were running with their owners on the path and music could be heard a distant charity run. Crew teams were practicing on the Schuylkill and there were the glorious colors of the fall leaves. The angel sculptures in the park looked amazingly beautiful. The Art Museum was making its statement, and I was in love with my city.
When winter officially announced its arrival, again I got pleasure from the simplest things. Walking into Wanamaker's (sorry Macy's) during the holiday season gave me a thrill. The Eagle was still standing in its same spot, and it was very cold outside. The Christmas music and the shoppers and the heated store all seemed real, and in place. It just felt right. I survived the snow and yes, I had to expand my closet to include coats and sweaters and boots.
By the time spring rolled around, I knew I had made the right decision. Each season brought change and as Joni Mitchell wrote "the carousel of life". When the restaurants started to bring their tables outside and the magnolias appeared in Rittenhouse Square, the city became alive with outdoor art shows and concerts. I realized that I never once looked back with regret about moving home. I felt as if I had a pulse again.
It feels wonderful not to be the youngest person in any of Philly's byob.'s which we often frequent. I love walking everywhere in this friendly city, talking to "strangers" on the street corners, going out to dinner at 8:00, getting last minute tickets for a concert or show, and always having so many choices. I work at a boutique in town, and with each day that I walk to the store, I drink in the sounds and sights and of course, the smells of Philly. Who ever said you can't go home again? I did. I am home.
Nina Betensky lives in Philadelphia and loves it.