Love Letters: Philadelphia

Philly, you've never left me and probably never will. You were the first place I ever called home. Even the first place I learned how to walk.
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Mandy Velez is a recent grad from the University Of Pittsburgh and the Associate Editor for HuffPost Parents. Though her mom moved her to the suburbs as a teen, her love of cities never faded. She now resides in Manhattan where she eats $1 pizza slices until she can have her beloved Philly cheesesteaks once again.

Philadelphia. The City Of Brotherly Love.

That's what I think of when I think of home. In fact, Philadelphia, you and I are on such good terms that I only ever called you by your nickname "Philly" until I moved away to college. We are just that close.

I'm in New York City now thanks to my job. But Philly, you've never left me and probably never will. You were the first place I ever called home. Even the first place I learned how to walk -- yes, the memory of my grandfather pushing me in my wagon around the neighborhood with its cracked sidewalks, hugging row homes, and numerous shops has stayed with me.

I remember moving to Lawncrest and then Fox Chase, in the Northeast, as I got older (only you understand how many sections of you there really are). And playing at the "rec" centers you proudly boast in most neighborhoods throughout the city. During summer, my fondest memories are at these "rec" day camps where we didn't have water slides and indoor gyms like the suburban kids did. Just a concrete hole filled with water for a pool, a rusty playground, and maybe an open fire hydrant for kids on the block to play in. And that was enough for me.

I remember the brisk Thanksgiving Day parades downtown, visiting the Franklin Institute, Art Museum and the Please Touch Museum. Though I'm ashamed to admit, I've only seen the Liberty Bell twice, Betsy Ross' house only once. I remember spending Easter Day on South Street before the bars opened up and the partiers came out. Now that I'm older, that's when I can really appreciate you, Philly. After spending last New Year's Eve there, I saw you come to life as I watched the fireworks burst and glisten as they fell over the Delaware River on Penn's Landing.

I remember taking the Regional Rail train into Center City to go to the Creative And Performing Arts High School for my freshmen year. You've always had a creative side, you know. You're home to the oldest theaters around and amazing art schools. But it was at CAPA that I learned to take SEPTA for the first time, and spent many a time catching the R5 at Suburban or 30th Street Station.

Philly, I will never forget spending hot summers at Citizens Bank Park, cheering on the Phightin' Phils, falls at Lincoln Financial Field watching the Eagles, and the winters spent at Wells Fargo, yelling for a Flyers' or 76ers win. I will never forget seeing my father falls to his knees when the Phils won the 2008 World Series, or standing among a sea a red during the parade days later. Or the times spent driving down 95 to go "down the shore" and seeing your skyline in all its glory.

But the thing I miss most of all, Philadelphia, are your Wawa hoagies and your cheesesteaks. Oh, your cheesesteaks. Damn, those jawns are good.

You see, most outsiders think that Pat's or Geno's are the way to go, but you and I know the truth, Philly. You know that true Philadelphians wouldn't pick those as our favorites. We go for Jim's, or Steve's, or our corner pizza shop, because we know they'll have exactly what we're craving: an amoroso roll with cut-up bits of steak and wiz. Oh, that wiz. And maybe onions, too. Then we'd go get some water (wooder) ice from Rita's for cold treat afterwards. Those were the days.

I'll be back again, Philadelphia, I promise. And don't youse guys forget it.