Thursday, February 7, 2008

Route 17

I didn’t grow up in the city. I’m from the ‘burbs and in fact, I now live about 10 minutes from my childhood home. My mother did grow up in the city and when I was a child, I used to visit my grandmother, Nina, who still lived in the city.

I would spend weekends with my grandmother and the two of us would have a grand ‘ole time. She’d fix me silver dollar pancakes and serve me hot chocolate made with milk in a teacup. Nina wasn’t very tall, just shy of 4’11’ and she wore a size 5 shoe. She was the youngest in a family of four girls, who were so fair they often passed for white when they ventured out of their South Philadelphia neighborhood.

My grandmother didn’t drive, but of course that didn’t stop her and we’d venture out on our little adventures which often included shopping at Wannamaker’s or lunching at Horn & Hardarts, but no matter what trouble we were about to get in, to get there we had to hop on the 17 bus. When I was really small, I remember being frightened of all the different passengers and would hold my grandmother’s small hand as tightly as possible. I didn’t like it when we couldn’t sit together and I'd choose to stand by her seat instead of taking one of my own. I don’t know when these unsubstantiated fears subsided, but they eventually did and during these bus rides, I’d make up little narratives of the passengers getting on and off the bus.

When home on college breaks, my grandmother and I would go in town, shop in the Gallery and grab a bite to eat at one of the restaurants in the mall, where we would treat ourselves to an afternoon cocktail. With all my college sophistication, I introduced my grandmom to Banana Banshees and on more than one occasion we headed home on the 17 with a bit of a buzz. Nina would nudge me with her elbow and instruct me to “take a wing,” as we made our way home from the bus stop.

In my late 20s I moved into an apartment, which was in the house that my mother lived in with her parents when she was a little girl. A few years later, Loverman and I lived in a house next door to this very apartment and once again, I became a frequent passenger on the 17.

The 17’s route travels north on 20th Street and south on 19th, and to this day, just seeing the bus triggers the most comforting and happy memories, while reminding me of who I am and where I come from.


jillybean said...

Mango Mama,

Thanks for always reminding me of the great things about home. I miss Philly sometimes, but you keep it alive in my mind and heart. Thanks!


Mama Kim said...