When you get one day off in a quarter, because you work three jobs and volunteer three places, you want it to mean some something and you treat that day like gold. At least I do because that’s been my life since August.
That golden day off, I took a solo adventure to Philadelphia, a city I had “been to” twice to the King of Prussia mall (not even in Philly) and once to a club in the middle of the night for New Years. When I was in college in CA, and friends told me about Love Park and seeing the Liberty Bell in my home state and I made it a goal to one day see those famous sites in Philly, not too far from my home town in PA.
It helps that my younger brother moved to Philly in recent months and that his birthday was just around the corner. It was worth my little adventure to see him for dinner and to have a place to park my car for the day.
The day before, I connected with a local Philly girl about what she recommended as the top “must see” spots for an impromptu day trip.
Alone but not lonely in my ventures, the Liberty Bell was free to visit, Love Park is pea sized compared to my original expectations, the Macy’s Christmas light show was cute, and I stumbled upon so much history!
Thomas Jefferson is buried in the city, the original White House was in Philly before being moved to D.C. Betsy Ross, who sewed the first American flags, stars forming a circle instead of lines on the flag, lived in Philly. And one of the cutest, oldest standing streets in the country, Elpheth’s Ally, was decorated a quaint colonial feel for Christmas.
History, lights, trains into the city, and navigating the sites was necessary and fun to get a quick breather and impromptu day traveling!
I also learned how excruciatingly small the world is. You see, Love Park offers a Christmas Village with vendors from all over selling cute trinkets and off beat Christmas presents, and Danish food and drinks for purchase. At that point it was 4 PM, I hadn’t eaten since breakfast, and had driven 3 hours and walked the city. A flaky, sweet, cinnamony apple strudel was waiting for me at an older baker’s shop. Between that and a coffee, I enjoyed my snack, as I sat on dirty, city steps below the LOVE at Love Park, while a musician played Christmas carols for the bystanders.
I looked around and noticed a booth with wooden carvings and a sign that said something about Bethlehem. Having been to Bethlehem I wandered over and peeked in.
“I’ve seen these carvings before!” I told the man and woman inside. “Are you from Bethlehem? Are these from Bethlehem?”
“Yeah!” the woman responded. “They’re from his family’s shop; they ship them here. We just want to share a little bit of Bethlehem with the people here!”
I pulled out my phone and showed her a Facebook pic that I had posted of the shop I visited in Bethlehem in 2012.
“Yes! We used to sell camel carvings like that!”
I turned to the man, “The man in this shop that I went to in Bethlehem, he talked about the USA and selling things here, was he your father perhaps? I mean I know there were a ton of olive tree, wood carvings shops all on one street, but what if I met your father?”
In Bethlehem when I visited in 2012, the man in the shop stood out to me because he talked to the other students and myself when we were there. He was tall and refined looking. The shop was clean and organized. And he spoke about the USA as he traveled here himself and shipped carvings.
He was also a Christian. In his shop there were carvings of Jesus on the cross as well as quaint nativity scenes to purchase, all made from Olive Tree wood in the little town of Bethlehem where Jesus was born.
Now, the man in Philly smiled, “Yeah, there are a lot of shops in Bethlehem right next to each other, but my Dad runs a store there. You probably met him!”
I explained that the camel I bought from his father was bowing almost. It had a bit of red rug on his back, like the camels on display in their booth in Philly. They laughed and said I was a Bethlehem girl. Then they helped me pick out a small ornament as a Christmas gift for my mom.
The encounter was inspiring, but I was a bit weirded out, not going to lie.
It reminds me, the world is small. There are connections all over.
What’s more is my experience in Israel was difficult on a number of levels, but I loved the camel carving I bought. And since the encounter with this Israeli couple in Philly, memories have floated back to mind about my trip years before to their homeland.
Beyond that, it is Christmas. Celebrating Christmas now with flashbacks of the place that set the scene for the first nativity scene works for me…
It’s like He planned it.