I was born into you on the day winter gave way to spring in 1975. I was pulled from my mother, screaming and closer to death than one should be on their day of birth, and spent my first few days with you, in the NICU of one of the top heart hospitals around, which was lucky for me, having a few more holes in my heart than anyone was comfortable with.
I have never had an address with your name on it, or a phone number that started in 215, but you have always felt like home to me. I lived in a small town, in a small state, in a small house that was so close to you I could almost touch you. In five short minutes, I could stand in a foreign land, your land, one with something I'd never heard of....sales tax.
When people fly into your airport from the mid-west, they fly over the hospital I was born at, just across from the Port of Philadelphia. They fly over Trainer, where my grandmother lives to this day. They fly over Chi, and Chi is were my brother lives. My cousins live there, too. At least I think they do.
Every time I make that flight from Denver to Philly, I lose my breath as I come over your port. Amidst the filth and the poverty that has enveloped that little part of the world, trapped in the middle of it, is beauty the likes of which I've never seen.
There's something about you. Maybe it's the way your air is so thick you can feel it, maybe it's the way the sun bounces off the green water into the green trees. Maybe it's the way that something so broken, so ruined and abandoned by man, by time, by industry, can fight so hard to live and thrive. Whatever it is, I never forgot it.
My love for you comes not from the people I knew there, or the times I spent there. It comes from the trees. It comes from the flowers. It comes from the earth. You are beautiful when you're not busy trying to show off for Sylvester Stallone. I never forgot that.
When I was a girl, and my mother couldn't stand me anymore, she'd send me to stay with my friend and her mother, and they lived near the heart of you, in Bucks County. Sometimes I'd stay for a day, sometimes for a month or more. I spent a lot of my time walking in your creeks, sitting in the shade of your trees, and I was always safe. This is where I was safe, with you. I never forgot that.
When I got to be a bit older, I got to spend more time in the darker parts of you, the parts where white girls really shouldn't be, but I always could go. I got to see your seedier side, your underbelly, the part of you that people didn't talk about or care about. That was my favorite part. That was were I learned to love real, good rap, where I learned to braid. And I was never afraid. I never forgot that.
When summer comes to you, the air is full and heavy and wet, the way we northerners imagine it to be down south, the way you don't think it could ever be up north, but it is anyway. I remember being a little girl, laying in front of every fan I could get ahold of late at night, trying not to sweat to absolute death, and I remember being thankful that at least, there with you, far away from those things I was hiding from, swaddled in humidity and dust, I could feel something at all. I will never forget that.
You smell like something I will never be able to describe, and so I won't even try, but sometimes when the seasons are changing and there is a storm coming, sometimes in Denver I can catch the scent of you on the breeze; the scent of leaves and pollen and just a hint of industry and sweat. I hope I don't ever forget that.
I left you for good too many years ago, and I honestly don't think I will ever see you again. I would like for my children to see my home someday, but you never really were my home, were you? You were an illusion, a temporary asylum for me, and I don't have a claim to you. But that doesn't change the fact that I miss you indescribably sometimes. I miss your gardens and your orchards and your forests. I miss your bridges and your culture and Zipperhead and South Street and the Vet and all of you. You were where I came when it all had to stop, and it all did. You gave me flowers and water ice and lightening bugs and shelter from the storm; but most importantly, I got to be a child with you. And I won't ever forget it.