Originally a path for Quaker immigrants to travel between Philadelphia and Wilmington, Route 13 got its official highway number in the late 1920s. Industrial barons wanted to streamline a paved path for their new cars, even though most of the traffic in our town was from the trolley that trundled down our Main Street.
By the time I was born, you could drive Route 13 from our town all the way to North Carolina. If you wanted to. Not many folks I knew wanted to leave our county, let alone Pennsylvania.
The older I got, the more aware I became about the divide across that four-lane road. I walked a quarter-mile stretch of it on my path to school between seventh and eighth grade. I rode on it at least once almost every day until I left town at age 17.
Our family lived on the hill, west of the road and south of the creek. North of the creek sat my school and our church. North of the creek and east of the road, sat the rest of Darby.
This tiny, industrial village clings to the southwest edge of Philadelphia. It’s a place full of mills and factories that had been left behind in the decades before I was born. A place its most famous residents had notoriously escaped from, one way or another. A place I was determined to get as far away from as possible.
Over the past few years, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about Route 13, about my childhood, and about the journey I made to a career and a life that I love. But I’ve also been dwelling on my good fortune and my privilege—and about the challenges faced by so many people in my old hometown who happened to live on the other side of that intersection.
This is a thought experiment that’s not guaranteed to take either of us anywhere.
However, if you’re like me, and you’ve been through a process of reinventing yourself—or if you’re just about to go through that kind of journey on your own—I hope you’ll find value in the latest iteration of my personal newsletter.
Subscribe here, and you’ll get a new column every few days—and this is likely the only place I’ll be posting these. (They won’t show up here on the blog.)