Advanced Essay #3: Memories of the Block

For this paper, I wrote about how your neighborhood effects you as you grow up and even after you leave where you're from. To me, where you begin impacts your identity and who and what you were exposed to in those years. My goals for this essay were to portray how I myself like to hold onto memories and carry my past with me, and I contrast this to how you need to be able to let go in order to grow. For this essay, I feel like it was pretty personal and something I was passionate about which made it flow much easier for me. The idea and drafts came easy to me, so this was an especially smooth process. I am pretty proud of how it came out and feel like this is the most effort I've put in all year.


I used to have a little table in my living room. I would sit and keep myself busy for hours making paper dolls, watches, and whatever invention popped into my four year old mind. Any time I heard someone yell outside on the street or the sound of bike tires against the pavement, I would rush to the window and peek through the curtain with excitement to see if it was the boys. I would beg my mom to let me out the door, in dire need of seeing my friends of the block. There was Ivan, who was lanky and funny, and was the oldest of the group. We liked to play Lego Star Wars on Xbox together, even though I was never any good. There was Sal, his full name Salvador, which I could never get quite right, and he would always tease me for it. There was Owen, who had moved there just for a year or two and who we didn’t see all that much, but was a part of our playful group on occasion. Then there was Nick. My little heart used to flutter every time I laid eyes on him. He wore the South Philly boy tank tops, had one diamond earring, and was the definition of perfect to a younger version of myself. They were like the band of brothers I never had. I was the baby of the group they all looked after. We would run around the street all day long, finding chalk and bubbles, riding our scooters and bikes, like a bunch of best friends.

I felt a sense of belonging on that little street wedged into the culture of South Philadelphia. I had found my people: kids who came from where I came from, but with totally different backgrounds. Nick’s mother had died when he was young, and his father seemed to be addicted to some drugs, from what my family could make of his characteristics. Nick had a good heart with good intentions, but my mom would always say she knew he could be trouble. As for me, I was just a little middle class girl going to private school, but just loving being a part of something. To he honest, we didn’t know too much about one another. They had all only been into my house for my birthday party one year, but other than that everything stayed on the street. I didn’t even know their last names, but somehow it didn’t matter. We were so contrasting in what our lives consisted of, but that neighborhood brought us together regardless.

My family had decided to pick up and relocate further down Washington Avenue, only 15 or so blocks more South. I missed turning the corner and playing on the swings of my childhood at Palumbo park, or walking to Anthony’s for an iced coffee on the weekends. I didn’t want to disconnect from where I grew up, where I felt so deeply rooted and surrounded by the comforts of familiarity. I am one to linger on every piece of my past, each memory permanently etched into the background of my brain travelling with me and piling up in stacks. I am terrified of letting even one memory slip away.

Once I moved, I missed my old friends. The ones who were always there for me. I only saw Nick one time after, many years later. He had grown to be slender, like a twig. He still wore his white tank tops, and was every bit as charming as I had remembered. As he walked by I suddenly began to feel sorry for him. His being had a looming sadness to it, he seemed the same as he did before and I worried he would never change. Would he always be stuck in the little house on the corner, taking care of himself and trying to make it on his own? He was a good kid, at least he was in my eyes. He always protected me and cared for me, and that was all I could ever ask of him. He showed me what it was like to have someone you could always count on and look up to As he turned to the street and left my field of vision, and I knew we would never cross paths again. It hit me in that moment that I didn't know him anymore. If I had gotten up and ran over to him, like I could when I was younger, I didn't think he would even know who I was. Nick was the living, breathing evidence of how I no longer fit in. I locked my eyes onto him for as long as I could, soaking in every detail which I knew would soon fade away.

Even though we no longer share Montrose street, that will always be where we grew up. Everyone has a starting place, a home town. Each neighborhood has their own traits, things that make it home. We all carry the ghosts of our childhood along with us, trailing us no matter how far away we wander. This is true of my little sliver of South Philly, and can be seen replicating across the entirety of Philadelphia. A Northern Liberties native commented, “I want everyone to know that we used to play there and that the ghosts of our past remain there playing indefinitely while new tenants live their everyday lives. Things change, but the memories will always remain.” This thought came from Ava Olsen, a girl who grew up in Northern Liberties which is her own neighborhood she called home. There was an empty lot in which all of her and her neighborhood friends used to play, but got converted into new houses. She delves into the thinking that memories are a part of us, woven into our skin, embedded into our eyes and stained to our thoughts. The names of the corner stores will continue to change, the houses you used to know will be filled with new strangers, but nothing can strip away what you take with you from your childhood.

This is a natural evolution of a neighborhood and happens continuously and everywhere. No corner can escape it, and this is a weight we all carry on our shoulders. Having to let go of the smell of spaghetti at my favorite Italian restaurant down the block, or the memory of walking into the spice shop and the old woman giving me free sprinkles to bake my favorite cupcakes. Slowly, day by day, these memories will fade, becoming less vibrant as the seconds tick past. There are too many memories and moments to carry, our brains overflowing with attempts to cram in all we have endured. None of us can grip all of them; they always manage to slip through the cracks. Where we are from still defines us however, because those memories have still molded us in miniscule ways that build up to who we are now. We are all forced to grow and learn from our past, but not cling to it so heavily that we cannot evolve in the future. Our neighborhoods give us a basis for all that we are exposed to. No matter how far we stray or when we leave our origin, our neighborhoods will always be scattered with pieces of us, and we will never forget where we came from.


Olsen, Ava. Street Note: Northern Liberties. Re-Place-ing organization.