Philly Magic

Friday morning I awoke early to get started on my long drive east – through Ohio and Pennsylvania. My first long solo drive.

The man in the electronic department at Target looked at me quizzically as I approached him at 8:15 am, a bottle of wine in hand (the present for my lovely host Brenna), asking him where I could find an aux cord. He kindly showed me my options and commented that I sure was having a good start to my day.

“I’m going on a roadtrip!” I explained excitedly.

He looked at the bottle of wine.

“Oh no! This is for when I get there,” I assured him.

He chuckled, almost as if he didn’t believe me, and I scurried out of the store, determined to be on the road as soon as possible.

9 turned to 10 and 10 became 11 and soon it was the afternoon. Old 90’s jams mixed with Caitlin’s favorite tunes and other friends’ playlists floated in and out of my ears. The gray day turned sunny and the closer I got, the greener the trees, and the more it seemed as if I was driving into spring.

I only got slightly turned around driving into the city, and I drove along the river, the trees leading my way, fresh blooms welcoming me into this old place that I had never been. Driving over a bridge I glimpsed the most vibrant sky, and as I followed my directions I realized I had no idea that Brenna lived so central in the city. I also realized we had not seen each other for almost a year, and I briefly wondered if I was imposing myself on her and if this would be a strange encounter.

When she answered the phone and I heard her voice, my worries were soothed. Brenna has a way of doing that though. Making you feel like everything is okay. Making you feel content, and that there isn’t anything you can’t solve.


That night I was enchanted by her stories about her job as we chatted about the things that had happened to us in the past couple of months. Her excitement about her work is contagious. Never did I think I could spend any time talking about brain surgery on mice, but Brenna’s love for the topic made me genuinely happy to listen.



Saturday was our day to explore. Brenna took me on a walk around the city, pointing out her favorite grocery store, the bridge where she once had to stop with a broken chain on her bike, the path she takes to work. We had a lovely brunch and went to the Philadelphia Magic Gardens – which I would describe as a living art museum made of the most unique mosaics I’ve ever seen.  It was intricate and unique and posed some interesting questions and offered strange insights.

{We dream in waking moments, and walk in sleep}IMG_3804IMG_3817IMG_3867


After the Gardens we were taking a stroll back to the old city and I asked Brenna, “Why do you think those people are carrying pillows?”

We found out once we arrived at the park. Brenna was telling me it was a great spot to sit and take a little rest mid-walk. As we approached the center fountain, we saw a gathering of people – and they all had pillows. After realizing we wouldn’t know until we asked, we asked a woman standing near us if she knew what was going on.

“It’s International Pillow Fight Day,” she said matter-of-factly.

Brenna and I just looked at each other, both wondering the same thing – what? 

The woman seemed to understand we needed further explanation and began to tell us it was an event organized for the whole city of Philadelphia and anyone was welcome to participate. We nodded along, as if this was a normal occurrence in our lives.

And all of a sudden someone hit someone else with their pillow. Madness broke loose. People began running counter-clockwise around the fountain – hitting each other with their pillows. Kids, adults, friends, families, strangers, all intermingling. Some more enthused than others, some more prepared than others. Some more aggressive, some more gentle. We simply stood and stared for at least 15 minutes, laughing out loud at this strange scene unfolding before our very eyes.

Magical moments witnessed:

  • A man with pillows duct taped around his entire body unleashing a wild roar and chasing after some fellow pillow fighters
  • A man dressed in a Mexican wrestling mask with a small child chasing him with a little pillow, later seen laying on the pavement with the same small child trying to attack him with his pillow
  • Another body-suited pillow man giving one of his pillows to a small kid without one

Beautiful conversations overheard:

  • “Do you want to run in there? You can use my pillow!” A woman to a pillow-less bystander
  • “So you’re just a regular guy? At the park for the pillow fight?” A skeptical dad of one of the previously mentioned small children 
    • “Yep!”
  • “I’m in the park and there are people running around in strange costumes and I have no idea what’s going on …” a confused woman on the phone walking through the commotion

Brenna and I managed to snag a bench and sat with our faces to the glorious sun, observing this random and strange and also beautiful event take place right before our eyes for over an hour.

It was so beautiful to me because I got to witness all of these strangers exchanging moments of pure joy – of playfulness. Of running and laughing and fighting in the softest way. Breaking barriers that we for some reason continue to perpetuate every day. On a normal day everyone in that park could have walked by each other, acting almost as if those other humans weren’t there. And I think that acknowledging each others presence by sharing something together – even if it was the joy of the slap of the pillow in that moment – was pure magic.



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