Today is a warm day in April, in Delaware. I am lightly dozing on the bench tucked in amongst the shrubbery by my front door. The morning sun shines directly on me and my eyes are closed. I feel I have just come out of the ocean and am sitting on the beach, the hot sun warming my chilly skin, so bright I can still see it through my closed eyelids. I can hear the lifeguard’s whistle, the slow rhythm of the cascading waves, the chatter of distant conversations, a radio tuned to the intermittent play-by-play voice of By Saam broadcasting from Shibe Park.
The chatter, I realize, is from a neighbor woman and her two friends passing in the street, briskly power walking in their jogging suits. They are engrossed in conversation and do not see me. The woman is a pleasant, cheerful person with two grown sons off at college and who is in the process of divorce. The sons, like their father, were athletes, and I saw them grow up in the street playing whichever sport was in season. She was a stay-at-home mom and now attacks new activities with determination bordering on desperation. Her former husband, whom I thought was arrogant and whom I no longer see, owns a successful plumbing company and has various crews at her house almost every week working on maintenance and improvement projects. I assume he was the guilty party.
My bench faces northeast in the direction of South Philadelphia, my grandparent’s childhood neighborhood and their first house together where my mother was born. If I could fly in that direction I would cover almost all of my family history: Clifton Heights, my father’s family home, Lansdowne, my teenage home, East Lansdowne, our family home until I reached the sixth grade, beyond to South Philadelphia, and even to Riverside, New Jersey, where I was born, delivered by my own aunt and uncle. All of these places are much changed, both physically and socially. Only the street names remain familiar.
I close my eyes again and listen. I can hear the faint, distant barking of a dog and squeals of children playing. I can hear the change in pitch of a car passing slowly on the street behind me. And always, the faint murmur of traffic on Concord Pike, like the sound of the ocean, an accepted part of the scenery.