Summers in Philadelphia are weighted with nostalgia for me. I spent at least three weeks of either June, July or August from 1979 to 1990 in this city visiting my grandma Tutu and her husband Sid. My mom was always with me and my sister joined our party in 1982.
The heat, humidity and scents of the streets of this city are engraved into my earliest memories. The fragrance of a cheesesteak cooking in a food truck is enough to slam me back two decades, to the time when I was all of two and a half feet tall and happily jogged next to my mom down Chestnut Street in my Strawberry Shortcake sneakers.
I took this photo in the moments after being walloped by a wave of remembrance, triggered by the hubbub at the corner of 18th and Walnut, and the food cart that’s been there as long as I’ve been alive. It smelled like griddled meat, boiled hot dogs and steamy sauerkraut.
Two minutes later, after shooting this image, I was walking up 18th Street and tripped on an uneven patch of sidewalk. I fell into one of those windmilling, staggering falls where time slowed down. I thought I might just be able to recover but instead when crashing to the sidewalk. I landed on my left knee and scraped up the palms of my hands but good.
An older woman in a Chanel suit stopped to help me up and stood there to make sure I could walk (I’ve done the very same thing for a stranger in the past). Once I could assure her that I was going to be okay, she left me. I limped to Sue’s Produce to finish my errands before heading home, all the while holding back sobs.
Those tears weren’t even because I was particularly hurt but because I’ve been in need of a release. When I got home, I wept. Huge, chest heaving, world ending wails. I’ve been out of touch, out of contact with myself and totally wracked with unspecified anxiety. I didn’t realize it, but a moment in connection with my past coupled with a big shock was exactly what I needed.
My knee is a little sore, but really fine. And my heart feels lighter than it has in months.