Monday, December 8, 2008

Monday Memories—Philadelphia

When I was fourteen I went to Philadelphia on an American History tour. I remember the building where the Continental Congress met and that even though there were two doors at the front of the signing-of-the-declaration room, only one opened because the other was strictly ornamental. I remember the street venders and my first exposure to mustard on pretzels. I remember the Liberty Bell. I remember the litter in the streets.

This past weekend we added some more memories to Philadelphia:

the downtown streets were lined with Army-Navy Game banners

We attended the Army/Navy game and were informed the morning of the game that President Bush would be in attendance. The long line to get through the metal detectors and security gates was more than worth the honor of having the Commander in Chief at the game in front of some of his soldiers.

Soon after we got seated in the stands, Air Force One did a fly-over down the middle of the stadium showing President Bush’s support to the troops. When he entered the stadium the crowd stood and he walked along the stands and shook the hands of the cadets, midshipmen, generals, admirals and referees as well as conducted the coin toss. He sat on the Army side and cheered for the mules the first half of the game and then moved to the Navy side and cheered for the goats the second half. He sat in the freezing cold on regular bleacher seats just like the rest of us instead of the warm, catered press boxes. And while The Star-Spangled Banner was sung beautifully, my throat choked closed when 8,000 cadets and midshipmen, tens of thousands of American’s and President Bush sang “God Bless America” together.

Army got thumped by the Navy—a 34-0 shut-out. But if our new uniforms of camouflaged helmets and pants had counted for points, we’d have won. They were very cool with “Boots on the ground” printed on the pant legs and “Duty, Honor, Country” printed instead of names on the back of the jerseys.

Another bonus of the game was running into friends. Gary and Laurie Clark have three sons who attend West Point and six years ago we became friends through our academy association. Low and behold, out of a hundred thousand seats theirs were right in front of ours. As a cancer survivor and vibrant mother of five boys, Laurie is more than a friend she is an inspiration. After the game we caught the subway back to the hotel and waited for the Clarks to join us for dinner. We went to four different restaurants and each one had a 3-4 hour wait. Gary suggested we try Chinatown. Figuring a thug would be a fool to attack eight of us, we headed to the shady district. It was bitter cold, snowing and beautiful. We found a little place and though it was empty, we didn’t let that scare us. Ty’s standard of never trusting a place that has lights missing in their neon sign or that has Golden Dragon in the title was met, so we chanced it. I’m glad we did because the food was good, the place was quiet so we could easily visit, it was ridiculously inexpensive and my fortune was a good one.

Independence Hall

Sunday we walked to some of the historical sites. It was f-r-e-e-z-i-n-g, literally since it was -4Âș below zero with the wind chill, and it just bit all the way through our five layers of clothes. Every time we went out in it I thought of Washington with his troops in Valley Forge or the homeless people sleeping on top of the steaming manhole vents. I never cease to marvel at the miracle of the birth of this country or at the prosperity and comfort I have enjoyed in my life. Sunday was chock full of humbling experiences as we also attended church in an inner-city ward. The first Sunday of the month we have what is called Testimony meeting where several members of the congregation stand and share their testimonies of the Gospel. This particular meeting a man from Ghana and a woman from Honduras stood and shared their testimonies of the love of the Savior. I felt particularly blessed to be in attendance and hear their words. Singing with the congregation was also a great experience; the chorister was so happy, upbeat and animated I felt like I was singing in a Sister Act chorus. While singing "Joy to the World", for the second time in two days, my throat swelled closed with emotion at the spirit which I felt.

Sunday, after Grace and Abe returned to New York, Calvin and I walked to the old City Tavern for supper. Founded in 1773, it was rebuilt by the National Parks Service in 1985 to commemorate its significance during Revolutionary times. During the Continental Congress, the men would hash the details in Independence Hall and then go to the tavern to eat, drink and lobby their positions. Supposedly it’s here that Ben Franklin convinced John Adams to use diplomacy instead of argument to get something passed. We drank from pewter goblets and were served by men in knickers and women in white caps. I had Martha Washington pot pie and Calvin had three types of German sausages, apple wood ham and sauerkraut. The tavern also served Thomas Jefferson Sweet Potato Biscuits (they say it’s the original recipe and I don’t doubt it because they're hard as little rocks and not very sweet, but good).

Abe and Grace in front of Independence Hall

Calvin and me at the game

I am glad to add these things to my Philadelphia memories and they were made great because I spent the time with Calvin, Abe and Abe’s girlfriend, Grace. It didn’t matter what we did—eating good food, riding the subway, walking the streets, playing a game of cards, going to church, visiting in our room, seeing the lighted trees, eating pretzels, watching the game or sipping hot cider in the hotel lobby—this trip to Philadelphia was much richer than the first because I had people I love to share it with. Tonight I feel like Rocky when he ran up the stairs and punched the air at the top because he had finally arrived.

Thank you Philly for your hospitality and memories.

Do you have a fond memory in Philadelphia or other Revolutionary site?


Amy said...

What a joy of a trip! I love the smallness of the world that you ran into your Clark friends. And I love your "it was bitter cold, snowing, and beautiful" line. I've been to that, but it's been a very long while now.

Julie said...

I love to hear of the history of different places and always love to hear the National Anthem sung. It's especially great with men in uniform saluting. Something about those uniforms! I'm glad you had a great time. Isn't our country wonderful!

deidra said...

Philly was the first "field trip" my group of friends took during our internships in DC. It was February, and just about as cold as your weekend was. I remember being in awe while standing in Independence Hall, thinking of all the history movies I'd seen of it, and then actually being there. It gave me chills!

And then hunting down the best cheesesteak sandwich.

Sounds like your trip was great! I love those serendipitous run-ins and catching ups!

HeatherM said...

Oh Jane, I'm glad you had a good time. Chance's class is studying the 13 colonies right now (includintg the City of Brotherly Love), and it's been fun to remember some bits of history I'd forgotten, as well as see it through his eyes. What an area rich, rich, rich in history!

Becky said...

I counted and while reading your post I got all choked up 3 times and I laughed out loud are such a great writer. Thanks for sharing Philadelphia with us!

Nanci said...

My favorite memory of Philadelphia is watching people dress up and be in true character of someone who made a big difference to our country. Glad to hear that you were able to make it there. Amish country is a definite favorite of mine. My mother and I went on a private tour in our car around Lancaster and learned so much about how they help each other, how they date, and all kinds of rules that they follow and live by.