On some July mornings, the humidity and sun combine to envelope nearly every living thing in a syrupy stillness like that field of brilliant poppies in the Wizard of Oz. Yesterday morning was like that. As I ran one my usual routes down the Heritage trail and into West Laurel Hill Cemetery, waves of cicadas offered the only accompaniment to my labored breathing and rhythmic footsteps. The occasional bird called out a half-hearted song, but those were few and far between. I wended my way around humble granite gravestones, stately mausoleums with gem-colored stained glass, sharp obelisks piercing the sky and I reveled in the sleepy quiet and in the wonder that one day could be so different from the next – neither better than the other. On Saturday, by the time I dropped our older son off at Boathouse Row around 8 a.m. for his regatta, the whole area was already swarming with bikers, runners and rollerbladers — not to mention the hundreds of rowers readying themselves for their respective races. As Tom and I stood on the riverbank, waiting for our son’s event, I took in the countless boats working their way upriver, telltale oars identifying their boathouses. A freight train, the cars emblazoned with the ubiquitous CSX, rolled its way across one of the many bridges spanning the river and beyond that Philadelphia’s tallest buildings fought to be seen beneath clouds threatening a warm summer rain. That feeling hit me again, the feeling that was reignited during that first regatta in April and which continues to grow: I love Philadelphia.
Later in the day, I drove into the East Parkside part of Philadelphia to pick up folks for a church BBQ. The woman who is our contact in the community is nothing short of amazing, organizing events for children, helping men in a halfway house find jobs and planning meals for the sick and elderly. Playing with the kids and talking to their parents was great, but my favorite part of the night was hearing Miss Calla’s stories of growing up in Philadelphia. She got everyone laughing when she told us of the fish man coming through her neighborhood by horse and wagon, shouting: “Here come your fish man! Bring out your dish pan!”
As we were driving home, Miss Calla showed me her block, a lovely peaceful block tucked in from a busy main road, and pointed out the garden space that neighbors created as well as a very creative renovation of one of the row homes. And it hit me again: I love Philadelphia.