I visited Holy Sepulchre Cemetery on the border of Philadelphia on Sunday with family. We were there to select the memorial grave marker for my grandparents, who were both buried there in October. After we were finished with those decisions, we drove the half hour or so across town to the Mayfair Diner in Northeast Philadelphia.
It was my first time at the Mayfair Diner, and first time ever, I think, actually being in Mayfair in a meaningful way. We’ve driven through the neighborhood a few dozen times in my life, but we had always been on our way to someplace else.
After finishing lunch at the diner, we decided to visit St. Bernard’s parish nearby, and then 7166 Cottage Street, a great home across Cottman Avenue that I’ve never been in, but where my great grandmother raised my grandmother, and where my aunts, uncles, and mother made many childhood memories.
Like so much of the city, it’s a dense and walkable neighborhood, and I convinced my family to walk it with me rather than do yet another drive-by tour where we’d be separated into cars and sealed away from a genuine experience of the place.
Like I did this summer, visiting these places was like a little pilgrimage for me of a place “both foreign and familiar,” as a friend of mine as written about special places.
I never experienced Mayfair in the way my family did, but I was glad to be able to connect a bit with it, and to hear some of the memories of the place that still animate the lives of those I love.