It begins in Daytona Beach, Fl, where my grandparents were wintering in neighboring Port Orange and breakfast hung from a tree outside the window. It was the end of the 70’s and, although we didn’t know it, the end of lots of other things, too.
My little Nana made pancakes for everyone. It seemed like dozens and to this day I don’t know how she shelled them out so quickly. She never seemed in a rush and kept the kitchen clean and shiny as she went. Then we said our goodbyes and left for the beach. We had 4 free days ahead of us, and someone said “Let’s go to Philadelphia!”
I remember my mixed feelings at this idea. I was sure we would be arrested or worse. I was fairly confident we would end up missing classes upon our expectantly tardy return. Actually, the more thought I gave the idea, the more I could not come up with one good reason to embark on this journey, so of course, in the car we I got.
Our driver, who I will just refer to as Audrey, loved to drive, loved to be in charge and seemed to know where we were headed. She did not want to share the navigating responsibility, which was OK with the rest of us. We pooled some funds for gas and made very few stops. We were four in all, piled in the sort of white wood-paneled wagon a parent would own. We had one shy, quiet unlikely (but pleasant) passenger and the three of us who never shut up. I was hoping to see the Liberty Bell.
Even the simple details were exciting, after being in school for so many months it was fun being on the open road. We were an eclectic mix of humans, and each passing mile made me happier to be long for the ride. As the city bridges started to pop up over the horizon, famine and fatigue began grab a hold of us, the three of us dozing in and out and the quiet girl sleeping soundly.
When we parked and got situated, we stopped and got a pizza, you know, like ya do. We walked up a few flights of stairs, happily stretching out our kinky muscles.
Finally we reached the threshold of the door of Audrey’s friend and knocked.
We knocked again. I’m not sure I’d seen an apartment before but the place was something to see….animal print on every surface, before I even knew what animal print was.
Cheetah adorned the furry shower curtain. We took turns in the bathroom while our welcoming host explained, over and over to each one exiting the loo, that Audrey no longer lived there and would we care to order another pizza so that there would be plenty for everyone? (It was around this time we all started saying “loo” at every opportunity, cause we were going to London the next year). He as very apologetic regarding her absence, as if it was his fault. I felt curiously safe which was a good thing, because the next morning we all woke up there.
Nobody wanted to do anything touristy but they did indulge me by allowing a side trip to the Liberty Bell. I am especially glad for this memory and for getting to see the bell a last time before it was shuttled to an interior location and ensconced in layers of security post 9/11. We had an exceptional, well-trained docent and one or two liberal arts majors re-affirmed their love for history.
This bi-coastal Florida- to-Philly adventure provided a badly needed diversion and a shot of adrenaline to get me through the rest of the semester. I got home and changed my major, and started writing his love letter to you. Happy Valentine’s Day.