These streets


For three years it was home. I’d unlock the knob, squeeze through the narrow hallway past my hanging bike, amble up the steep steps, drop off my bag and check the mail and greet my roommates and maybe collapse for a moment or two onto my cloud of a bed. I hosted countless dinner parties around that blessed dining room table, the stout candles flickering in the chandelier above, jazz or folk playing softly, wine glasses filled and refilled as plates emptied and conversation wandered from the mundane to the profound, with stories and laughter and sometimes tears. And the brunches, too. The early morning Sunday runs with dear friends, the immediate pours of tall glasses of water as soon as we got in the door, the smell of bacon and eggs and pancakes wafting upstairs and down and readying our well-deserving stomachs. Oh, and Monday nights. The ring after ring of the doorbell, the race downstairs to fling open the door and greet whatever beloved friend was on the other side with a hug, the bowls of popcorn (seasoned with sea salt and coconut oil, of course) and weekend catch-ups and prayerful silence as we pondered the upcoming Sunday Gospel. Then the depth of conversation around our cozy circle, sharing gems that the others had never considered, opening wounds and fears and joys to the gentleness and encouragement of dear sisters, rejoicing and mourning and dreaming and shouldering crosses together. And then there were the Friday night sleepovers. The happy end of week reunions with my oldest Philly friend, a candlelit dinner often followed by a movie and a heart-to-heart after the lights were out, a slow Saturday morning next complete with reading and eating and lazing about.


Home.


I can’t count the number of times I’ve walked up and down those blocks, greeting the hipster hairdresser at the corner on his smoke break, exchanging hellos with Kim my landlady and Joe the mailman and Norman the UPS man and Moe at the hardware store and Stav at the Greek restaurant and the butcher (why didn’t I ever ask his name?) at the little, overpriced grocery store. I’d help John, my blind friend, cross the street, bypass lines of tourists waiting to tour the penitentiary, join my running club for our weekly out and back that met across the street, frequent the Thursday farmers market, drop off letters for faraway friends at the post office, stock up on wine at the liquor store, brave the crowd outside the ice cream store on hot summer days, mosey to and from the free neighborhood pool with a towel over my shoulder, pray for hours at the Pink Sisters’ chapel, meet friends for dinner or drinks at Jack’s or La Calaca, read or work or people-watch at the coffee shop, smile at babies and the elderly and dog-walkers and tourists and neighbors, squeeze past friendly strangers who found a spot to rest on my stoop.


Home.


I’ve said lots of goodbyes in my lifetime, complete with hugs and tears and promises to stay in touch, and the goodbyes of the last few weeks have been particularly poignant. But the goodbye to my Fairmount home, and not just the front door and walls and roommates, but the routine and community and deep ties of my heart, has been unlike any other I’ve said before. It’s a loss that makes my heart ache, but that sweet heartache is a sign that I have lived and loved here so deeply and freely, with great intention and attention and gusto. It’s a heartache I give thanks for, one that points me to the mysterious hope of what is to come.


Home.


I can’t possibly know what is to come. But I can hope, and imagine, and dream. I’ll have an entirely new routine, new “roommates,” new ways to practice hospitality and service and patience. More hours around the table telling stories with laughter and tears, chats with neighbors and passersby and the homeless, deep transformation of my mind and heart and soul as I continue to seek God’s will. More living and loving deeply and freely, perhaps more deeply and freely than ever before. And I trust that those new streets that await me will, too, become home.


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