The Spaces Between Your Fingers

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Maureen has lived in North Philadelphia her entire life. She raises her 13-year-old Kevin alone and is concerned about the future of her neighborhood. She believes Temple has unintentionally created gentrification.

City leaves dress the front steps of my North Philadelphia. They are dried to the point where they crunch each time a small child steps on it with their winter boots.

My son Kevin just celebrated his 13th birthday. We sang happy birthday, even with his protest, and ate ice cream cake with Dr. Pepper, his favorite drink.

“I’m a teen, mom. Can’t you please let me walk around at night with my friends?”

I pretended not to hear him because I didn’t want to disappoint. He wants to roam around on his BMX bike with the older kids and check out the college campus. But this neighborhood has changed. It’s been gentrified and not necessarily for the better.

Broken beer bottles and cigarette butts fill the sewer drains at the corner of my street. I haven’t slept on a Friday night because of bumping rap music in 7 years.

My neighborhood used to consist of loving families, who would invite me over for dinner parties on the weekends. Now, young adults dressed in cherry and white who don’t look up from their iPhones are my neighbors and I never hear a hello.

There’s this overwhelming emotion bellowing in my stomach. I feel nervous. I’m nervous about a lot of things. Like Kevin getting involved with the wrong crowd, or paying next month’s rent.

But I’m most nervous for the future of my North Philadelphia neighborhood.

Each year, there’s more and more college kids moving into the homes that used to be owned by families who lived there for over thirty years.

The Gordon’s: a gorgeous family of 5. Two daughters who were honors students and their soccer star son. 

One day I saw them packing up their truck.

“Going on a trip, Kath?” I said to the mother.

“We’re moving dear. This neighborhood’s changing and not for the better. No matter what anyone says.”

And like that, they were gone.

I feel that our time is approaching, where we’re going to inevitably feel that we need to move. I hate to say it, but the future feels like we’re going back to the past.


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