I was born and raised in Chester, PA in Delaware County, also known as Delco. If you haven't heard of it, you've probably seen aspects of it depicted in Mare of Easttown. You go down the shore, you eat wooder ice, hoagies and pizza from La Spada's.
Chester was once a thriving city, but de-industrialization and the neoliberal economy turned it into something different. Now it's a toxic waste dump.
People from Chester are intensely loyal, no-nonsense and proud of who they are and what they do. They don't have a lot of patience for bullshit or pretension. They're fighters who still believe a person's word is their bond. They are generous beyond measure. In Chester bullshit just doesn't fly. I miss that in an age where everything has become a commodity and every human being a brand.
I carry the missing, the desires, the resentment, the aloneness. I carry a work ethic that I learned there—from my grandparents, from my parents and community, from the nuns who taught me in school. It was an insular place and one that formed my first understanding of class and race.
But it is also a place where I never felt truly at peace, where I always felt like "the Other", where I was always aware of the social, racial and economic tensions burning just below its surface, where I knew I could never be all of what I was. Growing up, I wanted nothing more than to get out of there. Everything I wanted seemed to lie somewhere else. I always dreamed of a larger world and I left there the first chance I had. For those parts of me to be out, I knew I had to get out. And I'm not just talking about being Queer. I'm talking about being a woman with a desire to live on my own terms, and an artist who knew that my identity and would always be in flux.
There are things about it that I miss every day. Things I know I will never get back because I've left--not just physically, but spiritually and emotionally. I left to become something else, someone else. And, so, in part, my roots have become part of an imaginary, of a story, a narrative that lives inside me, continue to drive me but also with a life that is separate from that place. It is a place that lives in my body and my mind, but I am not there. There is a space, a wound and in that space is where my writing lives.
It has its own life but it also lives in my imagination and continues to form me.
I miss many things about Delco. The people are straightforward, loyal and without pretension.
The longer I'm away the more this place lives in me. I carry it inside of me everywhere I go.
I hid so much of who I was when I lived there because I wanted to survive.
historic delco photo