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My Philadelphia: Coming Home

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By Kinaya  Ade'

My journey began in Pennsylvania Hospital, in 1956.  I was raised in South Philly, on the 1400 block of Bancroft Street, until I was nine-years old. I can still remember playing jacks on my marble steps, jumping double-dutch in the middle of the street, shooting marbles with my brothers, playing dodge ball at the block parties, buying water ice at the corner store, and holding my nose as the Abbotts Dairy's horses dropped their loads as they returned to the dairy which was at the end of our street. 

Life could not have been better,  and I could have lived in that world forever. But, one day, my father told us that he was tired of commuting back and forth from South Philly to Camden to work at the Campbell Soup Company, so we were buying a house in Camden and moving.  My heart dropped.  Would I ever see my friends Bo, Niecey, and Frankie anymore? I couldn't imagine life without them!  Dad said that hewould still do all the things he had always done with us in Philly: take us to the annual Gimbel's Thanksgiving Day Parade, the Mummer's Parade, and of course, the Phillies' baseball games, and he did.  But, when these events ended, we returned to Camden.

Well, Camden managed to happen, and I grew up, got married, and the two of us

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 made a home for our growing family.  My house was in Camden, but my heart never left Philly.  I found myself in Philly three or four times a week, attending church services, shopping, and visiting friends.

In 1988, after going through a rough period in my marriage, which included a separation, I found myself desiring to return to my home, Philadelphia.  So, I spoke to my aunt about renting her vacant home in North Philly, around 28th Street and Lehigh Avenue. She consented, but I never moved in.   Before I knew it, I was packing my children and our belongings, tossing everything into a U-Haul truck, and trucking it to Atlanta, Ga.  It was the most daring thing that I had ever done in my life, especially since I had never even visited Atlanta before. 

That was 24 years - and a stable, healthy marriage, 3 married children, 12 grandchildren, 3 college degrees --  ago, and yet the yearning to return to Philly, my home, never left me. Through the years, I had driven from Atlanta to Philadelphia, flown on countless occasions, and had always felt a sense of loss when I had to leave.  It felt like I was leaving home again, and again, and again. 

In September, 2010, I remember looking my husband in the eye one Saturday morning as I was folding clothes in our bedroom in Atlanta.  I simply said, "Everything that we were apparently sent here to do, we've done. It's time to go back home."  Needless to say, a lot of conversations took place about what that really meant, but we both agreed, it was time to make our journey back.  We decided that I would go first. So I ventured out.

"Wow, it's snowing, and it's coming down fast."  Those were the words that I spoke to my godson, on January 17, 2011, as he was driving us into Pennsylvania, late that Monday evening, having left Atlanta early that morning.  When I drove him to the airport the following day, and he faded from view, I knew then that I had begun a new chapter in my life. My husband, my children and grandchildren were 800 miles away, and I was sitting alone in my car.

One sunny morning, when winter was climaxing and spring was slowly coming into view, I decided to introduce myself to my city, for it had been a long time since we had really spent time together.  I drove all over this magnificent city.  I wanted to know what was left of what I remembered.  I drove down South Street, through the Italian Market on 9th street (my mother used to buy her meats and vegetables there every Saturday), around the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, and along the West River Drive.  I parked my car under the 46th street El line and caught the El to Center City and spent hours at Reading Terminal.  I sampled my favorite fast foods: soft pretzels and cheesesteaks.  My childhood memories came flooding back and I began to cry. 

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Philly gets in your blood, and you can't get it out.  I'm home! I'm home! I'm home!

My husband has joined me and life is good.  We have so much of our city yet to explore.  We have now come full-circle. He looked at me the other day and said, "Yep, we're home.

It has been one year since we moved into our two-story apartment home in the Overbrook section of West Philly.  My tree-lined neighborhood is filled with three-story stoned twin homes with driveways.  It's like living in the city, with a touch of suburbia.  I really do appreciate my driveway; coming from Atlanta, I'd grown used to parking on a driveway. Being situated one mile northwest of Delaware County, and one mile east of the Main Line does have its advantages: easy access to shopping anyway you turn.

Returning to an actual neighborhood reminds me of what I once knew, but with a 2012 twist. It's summer in Philly and block parties are in full swing. The streets are blocked off, the DJs are bumpin the music, grills are seen from one end of the block to the other, the smell of barbeque is permeating the air, and kids have replaced marbles and jacks with a huge bouncing moonwalk.  Crabs and water ice are still summer must haves. Fairmount Park, along Parkside Ave, is filled with art festivals featuring amazing local talent. These are the sights, smells, and sounds of my West Philly neighborhood, and I love it!

But what has impressed me the most is the hustling resilience that is in Philadelphians.  On City Ave, there is never a time that I don't see someone -- by themselves, in a motorized wheelchair of some sort, out and about shopping and enjoying life.  My husband and I actually witnessed the blind leading the blind. A blind man held the arm of a partially-sighted woman, as they walked along Conshohocken Ave., having just left the market. I have told everyone that I know in Atlanta that there is something special in a Philadelphian, something that says, "I've got to keep it moving, in-spite-of!"  This is a city filled with brave souls and I am glad to be in the midst of it al

 

 

 

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