Everyone has a hometown Quinny, and yours is Philadelphia, PA.
Our family isn’t originally from this area. Actually, we’re pretty new here. You father and I have lived all over the country, together and apart, over the years before finally ending our journey in Philly.
My hometown is Elyria, Ohio-a small, suburban town on the west side of Cleveland. I lived there happily for the first ten years of my life before my parents relocated us to Bradenton, Florida.
Florida was difficult at first. I loved growing up in the Midwest and the land of sunshine, beaches, hurricanes, drug smuggling, serial killers and old people took a while to get used to. But I did embrace the good qualities and eventually, Florida became my second home, although I always longed to return to the place I loved the most-Ohio.
After high school I moved to Tampa for a couple of years before packing up and heading back to Ohio. I spent a few years in Athens, a tiny but beautiful college town (Ohio University) 25 minutes east of West Virginia in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains.
Eventually, I worked my way up to Columbus, Ohio, the biggest city in the state. I was working in a bar, where I met your daddy. He worked with me. He was spending his first few years in Ohio, after moving there from California.
Your daddy was born in Tennessee, but didn’t spend much time there. Your Grandma and Grandpa moved around the country a few times too and he also spent some time in Ohio, Illinois, and even in Utah before finally settling in Riverside, California.
He eventually moved to Columbus, Ohio to get his PhD at Ohio State. After we met, we stayed in Columbus for a couple of years then spent some time roaming around the country as your daddy got established in his career. We spent a year in Memphis, Tennessee, two years in Starkville, Mississippi and finally ended up back in the sunshine state where we spent five years in Miami.
Every new move was an adventure. Some places were big cites with amazing food and music scenes and others were small towns where the most exciting thing to do on the weekend was shop at the new Super Wal-Mart. We fell in love with a few and couldn’t get out of others fast enough and actually, you’d be surprised to know which ones where which. In the end, there was always at least one wonderful thing about each place and we never regretted living in a single one.
There was however one unfortunate quality that they each possessed: none of them felt like home. That was, until we ended up in Philadelphia.
You daddy almost didn’t even come for the interview he had here. We were living in Miami and even though we knew we didn’t want to live there forever, we weren’t planning on leaving any time soon. We had just gone through a really rough year and enjoyed being close to your Grandparents who were just a three-hour drive away. And since we had been there for five years, we had made a ton of wonderful friends through school, work and running that we leaned on during that time. I told him to go on the interview for the free trip to a fun city, with no intention of anything more.
But as your father often does, he impressed them with his charm and they wanted him to come back for a second interview. And this time, they wanted him to bring me with him. They flew us up and introduced us to Philly.
I’ll never forget the first time we were driven around the city on the way to our downtown hotel. As I gazed up at the skyline in the distance and the endless brick rowhomes lining the edge of the South Philly, I couldn’t help but get a little excited. Philadelphia possessed something different than any other place we had lived. It was big, but didn’t seem unmanageable. The city felt alive-there was a definite hustle and bustle and it seemed like there was an endless list of fun things to do, see and try. Being so close to all the other major cities along the northeast was also a definite draw - New York, DC, Boston – they were all a short train ride away.
The city was surrounded by everything we could ever need: the ocean to the east, the mountains to the north and the country to the west. Just a short drive in any direction would get us to a different type of locale. And Philly was right in the heart of it all.
And the people we met where great, all of them, from work collegues to random people on the street. Philly gets a bad rap for rude people (or bad sports fans) but honestly, after living all over the country, we couldn’t have found that stereotype further from the truth. Everyone was welcoming and more than willing to help us. Of course, there are always characters in any big city, but honestly, what fun would it be without them? Overall, we found the general population to be great.
So we made the leap and moved up to the Northeast. We spent our first year in Philly living in Manayunk, an old industrial mill area of the city that sits along the Schuylkill River. Manayunk was revitalized in the 90’s and is now a hot spot for young professionals filled with fun bars, good restaurants and trendy boutiques. It’s part of the city, but it’s far enough away from center city that it feels like it’s own, small town. It was the perfect place to settle in to our new surroundings.
We spent our first year here getting to know the city. We took the train and walked everywhere. We spent summer afternoons getting lost in center city where we would discover new restaurants and bars or just spent the day lounging in the grass in Rittenhouse Square. We took advantage of the bike trails to Valley Forge and ran countless loops around Kelly Drive. We enjoyed as many of the random parades, events and concerts we could as we fell in love with our new hometown.
When the time came to settle on our first home, we couldn’t bring ourselves to move out to the suburbs. Sure, we could have gotten more square footage or a better school district, but we loved the city too much. And we knew, if we ever had a child here, they would love it too.
So we settled on a smaller rowhome in Mount Airy, a neighborhood in the Northwest section of the city that is still in the city limits, but is close to Fairmount park and feels more like a suburban neighborhood. The area is known for it’s diversity, it’s beautiful old homes and it’s liberal attitude. Our block of brick rowhomes is filled with people from all walks of life: young, old, black, white, Hispanic, gay, straight, couples, singles, families… and each neighbor is friendlier than the last. The first week we moved in, each and every one of them came to our home with a small token of welcome. I thought that only happened in the movies, but apparently, it also happens in Philly.
Of course, when we finally moved in, I was already 15 weeks pregnant with you. As we unpacked our boxes, the excitement of our new home meant so much more knowing that you would spend so many years there with us as a family; in that brick rowhome on that beautiful, tree-lined street that we adore; in the city that we have fallen in love with.
And you’re going to love it too. Your springs in Philly will be filled with trips to the Morris Arboretum to run through the azalea gardens and train rides to center city to enjoy the warmer weather in Rittenhouse Square while snacking on a Dutch pretzel from the Reading Terminal Market. Summers will be filled with lazy afternoons watching Phillies games, taking trips down to the shore, and cherry water ice from Rita’s. The fall will be spent running through the changing leaves in Fairmount Park, munching on Honeycrisp apples at Linvilla Orchard, trick-or-treating in our neighborhood Halloween parade and freezing our butts off at the Thanksgiving Day parade downtown. Winter will be spent sledding down the hills in Carpenter’s Woods and watching the Christmas light and pipe organ show in Macy’s in Center City.
You’re going to love the Please Touch Museum, the Art Museum, the Philadelphia Zoo, the Rocky statue, the history, the old stone homes, the Amish influence, the hundred year-old trees, the Italian Market, the cheesesteaks, the pretzels, the Tastykakes, the Phillies, Independence Hall, Fairmount Park…
I am so excited for you to grow up in Philadelphia. I’m excited that you are going to be in a city with such a rich history and diversity that you can learn and discover something new every day. I can’t wait to hear you tell stories to your kids about all the fun things you did in this beautiful city, your hometown, as you were growing up and all the wonderful memories you have made here.
My Philly girl.
*not my photo