BY PHILLYGRRL Perhaps it’s best to start at the beginning. When I was a girl of three, I lived with my parents and my older brother in the first floor of a row house on South Farragut Street in West Philadelphia. Occasionally, when my father was using the family’s orange VW Beetle or when my mom didn’t feel like driving, she would take me and my older brother on the Girard Avenue Trolley (Route 15). She’d say she needed to finish errands, but more than likely she just wanted to get out of the house – stuck as she was with two young children and a husband who worked night shifts and needed quiet.
My brother and I would pretend we were on a train ride, one we always hoped would never end. My mother tells me I would cry when our stop came. I hated getting off. Even after our family moved to New Jersey, I never forgot those rides. I would beg my father to take us back to Philadelphia so I could ride the ‘train.’
Five years and two more siblings later, I got that ride. I was eight. Our house in New Jersey, something of a gentlemen’s farm with its chickens, one-acre garden and goat – had just burned down. Everything in the room I had shared with siblings was ruined. My dolls were smeared with a thick coating of soot. The books I had collected – The Boxcar Children, The Bobbsey Twins, The Hardy Boys – were gone. We were devastated. And to make things even more unsettling, instead of re-building, my parents decided to move to North Philadelphia, to a house they already owned.
A week after the fire, my parents came up with a plan to cheer us up: The long-promised ‘train’ ride. My father, carrying a box of Dunkin’ Donuts in his hands, proudly led us to the Spring Garden stop of the Market-Frankford line. We rode the El to Northeast Philadelphia and back, coating the blue felt of our seats with powdered sugar. And once again, when our stop finally came, I got off the ‘train’ reluctantly.
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