When I was a child, growing up in the shadow of Manhattan, Philadelphia meant the bell with a crack and Ben Franklin with a kite. On a class trip to the capital of the United States, confused, I asked my teacher, where is the bell, where is the kite? The teacher sighed, but unsurprised (I was never a good student) answered, “The capital of our country is Washington, DC, but its birthplace, the bell and the kite, are back up in Philadelphia.”
“Why don’t you take us there?” I asked.
“Too dangerous,” she replied. “Criminals and trash.” Then she whispered, “They hide the bell under a stairwell.”
Many years later, I fell in love with a Philadelphia boy. He held my hand and took me to see the cracked bell, not under a stairwell anymore, but in a glass box in a field of green. At the end of a bridge named for the man, we saw a statue of Ben Franklin’s kite in a circle surrounded by fast-moving cars. I wondered if Franklin, with all his open-mindedness, could have imagined such a sight.
Five years ago, I moved here for the love of a Philadelphia man. He showed me a city that was really a small town. A neighborhood reminiscent of Mr. Rodgers and Sesame Street. In no time at all, his neighborhood became mine. The people in the shops know my name and even the strangers smile and say good morning. The streets are filled with people walking, to eat, to shop, to work. We stroll on an afternoon, hand in hand, pass this dog park, and the other dog park, and the other, other dog park. We watch the old buildings come down and the new ones go up.
And now this is my home. This is my city of brotherly love. It has criminals and trash, true, but that is not what I see when I look out my window. I see good-hearted people, and their ubiquitous dogs, talking and laughing and smiling. I see people who are proud of where they live. I see constant change and a desire to make it better.
This is the place I live and love and work. I walk its streets like I walk the hallways of my home. Its bars are my living room, its restaurants my kitchen. Its murals are the paintings hung on my walls. (Its museums are the guest room that you never use, but are really glad you have when people come to visit.)
I love where I live, simple as that. This is My Philadelphia.