On a walk to the library with my young son on a warm summer morning, there was a particular moment when I looked up around me and felt a sense of warmth and deep love for my city. Though not in the heart of Philadelphia, there was still a sea of busyness around me. People of different colors and ages waited with me for the light to turn green. Cars whizzed by while a man sold gyros from his food truck on the corner. At that moment, I was grateful to call this place home.
I can’t say I always felt like this.
I grew up in a neighborhood called Mayfair in Northeast Philadelphia. It mostly consisted of blocks and blocks of row homes cut through with store filled avenues. Each house on our street had a patch of grass in the front and a small, sloped cement yard in the back. The backyard was so sloped that every summer I had a reoccurring argument with my siblings over who got to sit in the “deep end” of the small, hard-plastic Little Mermaid pool.
Besides a three-year blip, I’ve always lived in this part of Philly. I have many fond memories of growing up in the cramped, three-bedroom row home. I loved Philly sports teams and would always proudly declare my allegiance. But our neighborhood wasn’t part of the downtown hubbub and excitement. Nor was it like the suburbs with big houses and sprawling backyards. Northeast Philly was all I knew, so I never thought there was anything special about it.
Life slowed down for me after my son Silas was born, and I stopped working full-time. Instead of traveling to the suburbs to work every day, I spend my days at home in the city, raising my son. It’s only recently that I have finally begun to appreciate this place. My perspective has shifted, and I am realizing all the things I love about where I live.
Here are some of those reasons.
I love that our downstairs neighbors speak simple Spanish to Silas and that he responds also in Spanish. I love the bond Silas has formed with their daughter, who spends Sunday evenings with us. I love our Portuguese neighbor Valerie and Russian neighbor Sarah. Silas loves Valerie’s two small dogs, Billy and Louie, who run to greet him by licking his hands, making him giggle. Sarah walks with a cane and sits on her stoop often. She smiles kindly at Silas and says ‘what a good baby he is’ and ‘he is so handsome.’ I love that they all have different languages and skin tones than me. I love that my son sees the rich culture and ethnicities all around Northeast Philly.
There are so many places within walking distance to my apartment. We have spent many mornings and afternoons walking to Target, Aldi, Wawa, CVS, Dunkin Donuts, Rita’s, and - my son’s personal favorite - Pet Smart. Even as we approach the store, he looks up at me and points excitedly, ‘Mama, Pet Store!’ He knows where to find all the different animals in the store.
Our church is a short drive and even if we rush out the door thinking we are late, we still manage to get there just in time. Many of our church friends live nearby, conveniently close for play dates and dinners.
We can even have the occasional date night because my in-laws are close enough to provide babysitting services.
I love how many delicious eateries are just a short 20-minute drive or a quick train ride into Center City.
I love how many family-friendly activities are available to us. There are four local libraries offering free story times for children. This past summer, we explored the area playgrounds to see which had the best (free!) spray park. We found our favorite and visited it often during the hot summer.
There is so much to do, so close by.
Here to Stay
From time to time, my husband and I have discussed moving out of the city. However, the more I think about all the things I love, I grow hesitant. The place I was once indifferent about, I now can’t imagine leaving. So, we have decided this is where we will continue to drive down roots, explore more of what the city has to offer, and get to know the people within it.
What do you love about where you live?