On Loving Philadelphia
Growing up in Pennsylvania Dutch country, many of my school field trips were to local dairy farms and apple orchards. For bigger trips, we visited the regional cities, New York City, Washington DC, and with so much history close to home, I’d been to Valley Forge and Gettysburg on trips as well. My favorite trips were when we’d load onto buses for the forty-some mile trip to Philadelphia. Granted, I was most excited about the zoo back then, but as I got older I grew to appreciate all the other fantastic things Philly had to offer in its history, plus concert venues, professional sports, and cultural spots.
It wasn’t til adulthood that I learned of the city’s bad reputation (crime and rude behavior, to put it mildly) I’d never experienced any of that and had moved to a different part of the country, so Philly has always had a little space in my heart, and that region has always been “back home,” regardless of where I’m living.
I visited Philadelphia on the 4th of July almost a decade ago, it’s something all Americans should experience. There’s a special energy in the air, a sense of pride that is absent most days, as if it’s an annual reminder of Oh yeah, this is why we’re all here.
My last trip to Philly was five years ago, in May. It was important to finally show my other half where I grew up. He’s a history buff and this was his first time to the City of Brotherly Love. It meant a lot to me to share this place with him.
I haven’t lived in Pennsylvania in over 20 years and it’s been over a decade since I’ve lived in a big city (and that was in the south so it’s not quite the same). We’d barely been in Philly 12 hours by the time I realized I don’t enjoy the atmosphere as I once had. It hit me on the first morning, when I was nearly brought to tears by the rudeness of a Dunkin Donuts employee. As we wandered around the city that day, it was if I’d never been there before; “What stinks? What is that noise? Why isn’t anyone following traffic laws?” I guess I’m just not a city person anymore and I’m okay with that…
Despite my complaints, as soon as we entered the historic district I felt uplifted. I looked around and remembered why we were there. It was a beautiful spring afternoon, sunny but not hot. Tourists wandered around, though it wasn’t crowded. There were tour guides in historic costumes leading groups of school children and shouting out facts about the landmarks. It was clear why I’d been so excited to come back to see these sights again as an adult. While standing inside Independence Hall, I felt a little overwhelmed by the knowledge that our country started here. I doubt I ever fully realized that as a kid.
At this point in my life, I love loving Philadelphia from afar. Having grown up in that area automatically gives me street credit I probably don’t deserve, but I’ll certainly take it! It also gives me a lot of room to be incredibly obnoxious in support of my sports teams (E-A-G-L-E-S EAGLES!)
Most of all, I appreciate having roots in a place very different from where I make my home now. It keeps me well rounded, and makes me who I am: The Liberty Bell, Tasty Kakes, The Philly Phanatic – are all a part of my foundation. Just like when I lived in Raleigh, NC for eight years and developed a taste for Hush Puppies and a tendency to say y’all.
When I go back to visit those cities, I return home fully appreciating the lifestyle I have in Montana. Those reminders of my “previous lives” keep me grounded in the life I live here, and helps me remain open minded and compassionate in regard to teh regional differences across our country.
I cherish all things related to Philly’s history, and have a small collection of Bicentennial souvenirs I’ve found at thrift shops. I defend Philly’s negative reputation while at the same time acknowledging it. You know how you can talk shit about your own family, but if someone else does you get pissed? It’s like that.
So Happy Independence Day from my patriotic little heart and my Liberty Bell collection!