Last week I wrote about our nephew’s wedding in Philadelphia. It was a wonderful celebration of reconnection with relatives whom we have rarely seen since living in Iowa for the past six years. After Jack and Danielle were whisked away on their honeymoon, many of our family took the Amtrak train from Philly to New York City on Sunday for another five days of delightful sightseeing and conversation. Walking through Central Park and window shopping on 5th Avenue reminded me of times spent as a child occasionally accompanying my father on business trips to the Big Apple.
We started out on Monday walking the High Line Trail. This is a High Line-Elevated New York City Park Rail Trail that offers spectacular views of the city. Because our group included our 7-year-old grandson, River, as well as those in their 80’s, we took our time and looked out for each other. The street art and wall murals were most creative and delightful.
Visiting One World Trade Center, with its spectacular 360 views, reminded me that I was, indeed, no longer in the cornfields of Iowa but rather in one of the grandest cities of our world. Our son, Garth, was kind enough to circle the building in which he works in Manhattan! I have always found it difficult to tolerate big cities because I easily become overwhelmed with the noise, traffic, smells, pollution, and sheer number of people. One of my favorite moments in NYC was walking with Garth and his fiancée Lillie through Prospect Park in Brooklyn with their dog Atari. Never have I seen hundreds of dogs in one park having the time of their life playing with each other!
A highlight of the Big Apple for our extended family was the opportunity to see three Broadway shows. Monday was the Christmas Spectacular starring the Radio City Rockettes. What fun!
Tuesday was Disney: The Lion King, which debuted on Broadway twenty-five years ago and has been seen by 110 million audience members across the world. Beginning with dancers costumed as birds and zebras twirling around a magical enchanting forest, the show is about a young lion cub named Simba, who idolizes his father, King Mufasa, and is eager for his own royal destiny.
For many years, especially since a 1994 version of the movie and a recent remake, The Lion King has taught children lessons about the circle of life (the most popular song in the show), following your dreams, and learning from mistakes. Hakuna Matata!
On Wednesday, we saw The Music Man, which originally opened in 1957. It ran for 1,375 performances and won the 1958 Tony Award for Best Musical while Robert Preston won Best Lead Actor in a Musical as con man Harold Hill, who arrives in River City, Iowa, in the summer of 1912.
The movie version was released in 1962, and I distinctly remember my enchantment with the movie when I saw it for the first time as a child. Of course, living in Pennsylvania at the time, I had no idea that sixty years later, I myself would be living in Iowa, the home of The Music Man’s “River City,” which was based upon Mason City, Iowa.
After these fabulous experiences, our extended family took the train back to Philadelphia last Thursday and rented a 15-passenger van to take us to my home territory in Montgomery County in southeastern PA. I lived my early life on the outskirts of Souderton, a small town of 7,100 people. This is the home in which I grew up since the sixth grade, and relatives and family members still live in the area.
I was thrilled with the opportunity to see my old haunts and know that, even with the Philadelphia suburbs creeping outward and Souderton only being 25 miles away from Philly, there is still a small-town Pennsylvania Dutch feel of connection. Here’s what I noticed:
- Many people drive in from “the country” to Philly for work.
- It’s still common to see “Old Mennonites” wearing their prayer caps and plain dresses.
- Much of the area still consists of hilly, narrow roads, but there are also new, widened roads to accommodate an increasing population.
- I couldn’t resist pulling into the driveway of our old house, built in 1965, when I was in 6th grade.
- As far as I could tell, the turkey farm is still across from our house, but there is also a new paved walking trail along the road.
- Whenever we return to PA, we visit Asher’s Chocolate Company in Souderton, which has been in existence since 1892.
- We also visited Landis Grocery Store in nearby Telford, which has all the Pennsylvania Dutch foods, baked goods, and candy that we crave.
Most of all, I was delighted to be with my two brothers and my sister, Jenny, whose birthday is Nov. 26, one day after mine. I’m especially grateful to Jenny, who arranged for our four families and others to gather.
The greatest gift of human life is connection with one another. On Thanksgiving Day, we remembered the legacy of our wonderful parents and vowed to remain connected with God and one another as disciples of Jesus Christ.
Connection: a wedding; exploring New York City; enjoying musicals; buying chocolate; telling stories; reminiscing; romping with a dog; joyfully accepting our responsibility to live out our faith and make a difference in our world. That’s what counts. Thanks be to God!