From the Wood to the Hood

As soon as we turn off of Rt 1 and onto North Broad Street in Philadelphia and see the handful of young black musicians playing drums in the middle of the street and collecting donations, Bryce knows he is “home” again. That marching band sits in the middle parking lane of busy Broad Street nearly every time we take Bryce back to Temple or come visit. You have to work with what you have.

Further down Broad, a church service revival is going on right on the sidewalk. There is lively singing and clapping as the black folk spill onto the street, smiling and singing the Lord’s praises.

A few more blocks down, a couple sits on their front patch of grass at tables covered with yard sale items and baked goods wrapped in plastic wrap. The husband-wife team sport look-alike red T-shirts and baseball hats and the husband has a Kereoke machine hooked up. He raises the mic to his mouth and tries to entice all us passer-byers to come up and buy a used coat or a Rice Krispie treat. “It’s all right here folks. Stop by for  a tasty treat while you check out these great barely-used items.”

Another few blocks down, a few women are creating an outdoor birthday party at a vacant weedy lot. Balloons were blown up and fastened to kitchen chairs carted from their homes, while coolers were brought in with refreshments. Again, you gotta make do with what you have. .

A smile moves across my face. Last week we were on the largest island in the largest fresh water lake in the world, Lake Superior, hiking the wilderness with the wolves and the moose on Isle Royale. Today we’re bringing Bryce back to the hood to begin his junior year at Tyler School of Art. His sister has recently landed in China and is moving among her new world of strange customs- where they eat soup full of chicken heads and feet that they stick in their mouths and use their clenched teeth to scrap off the “meat” from the head and claws. Tough call for a “wegatarian.”

I am amazed at how easily my children move between their worlds, from the wood to the hood, from Schuylkill County to North Philly and Guilin, China. I think it’s important to be able to not only function wherever you land, but also to bloom. We all have our preference of lifestyles and I believe my family is happiest in nature, but we can do cities and find beauty and joy there; we can do foreign countries and find some commonality. That is the beauty of travel, I believe. To close the gap between people and cultures and see similarities, not differences. That’s one of the reasons I carted them to eighteen countries before sending them off to college. To learn to build bridges and join hands, whether they are in the hood or in China. “We are one people, one people” as the Black Eyed Peas sing.

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