18 hours in Philly

“Let me get this straight. We’re driving to Philadelphia for doughnuts.”

That was Isabella’s response when I told her about my road trip plans for the weekend. The sun had scurried behind storm clouds, and raindrops began to dance upon the windshield as we rolled out of Brooklyn. My mind was divided between concentrating on the stop signs and streetlights, and my real reason for driving 95 miles for doughnuts.

Brooklyn is just too painful a place to be during our downtime. Somehow the weekday routine of school and work is manageable, though barely. My apartment is filled with noise permeating through the walls from a neighbor teaching piano lessons for hours on end every day. Smoke seeps up through the floorboards from downstairs, and spring signals construction in the hood, so amidst the chirping of birds is a chorus of power tools.

Our house upstate is usually our refuge but there’s some work being done in the bathroom, and since we only have one, we must wait until it’s finished before we can go. So, my doughnut plan seemed more like a delicious distraction, and less like running away. Still, I wasn’t completely convinced as we left. In fact, I hemmed and hawed over even making the trip until two hours before hitting the road.

It wasn’t until I hit the turnpike that I felt confident in my decision. Suddenly, grey skies were relegated to my rearview mirror, the rain stopped, and rays of sunshine dripped from the clouds ahead. When I was a kid, I imagined that was the angels looking down. Then as if by magic, the sun shone brightly across my face for the remainder of the drive. Michael knew how much I loved the warmth of the sun.

By time the Philadelphia skyline came into focus, the worries and weather in Brooklyn were a distant memory. I knew I wasn’t running away from the past. I was chasing something new. That’s the challenge with grief—accepting that your idea of normal never returns. It’s the new normal that is a daily challenge to embrace.

We settled into Hotel Palomar, and then went in search of dinner. If you find yourself in Philly, Village Whiskey is a must. Rarely do I go to a restaurant these days where every dish wows me, but Village Whiskey did just that. As I sat there, sipping my Commodore, I looked at my girls, the candlelight dancing in their eyes, smiles curled around their straws sucking up a thick red velvet milkshake. We were all giggles, breaking curfew, wondering what movie might be on television for us to curl up and watch back at the hotel. At that moment, I realized we have a gift more powerful than grief. We have each other.

And when all else fails, we have doughnuts.


  • Wendy

    Hi Jennie- to comment on this post and your last post – I agree with everyone else…do not feel bad about being absent here. Every post and update you give us is a bonus, but we all feel you and your family come first.

    I have never had an urge to go to Philadelphia, but after seeing your instagram photos, I am dying to go. I am also dying to find the perfect fluffy pretzel twist recipe – because the picture you put up was to die for.

  • Beth G from South Jersey

    Love this, Jennie…thanks for sharing your experience in dealing with grief – you summed it perfectly!!! xoxo

  • Rebekah

    Beautiful post. I’m a philly suburb gal and we are hitting up federal donuts this weekend. Sometimes travel is a good remedy for the soul.

  • Maria in NJ

    in a couple of weeks a few gf’s are going into Philly to go to Fante’s…well I know where I am suggesting lunch in So. Philly and its not going to be Geno’s…Federal Chicken sounds amazing!!

  • Jenny

    I think it’s great my hometown was able to offer sustenance, comfort, and temporary refuge for your family. You’re welcome anytime!

    The ‘new normal that is a daily challenge to embrace’ is a really good way of putting it. It’s outrageous, what we are asked to endure sometimes. It even becomes difficult to recognize myself when I find moments of joy. I appreciate being allowed into your struggle to abide– thank you.

  • angelitakarmalita

    I love a good road trip, and I’m close enough to Philly to make this one happen! thanks for the 411, and seriously, who doesn’t love a good donut? thanks for taking us along on your road trip, it heart warming and uplifting…

  • Rebekah

    An update: we did a donut challenge in Philly after reading your post. Beiler’s at Reading Terminal vs Federal. Beiler’s won 2:1. You simply must try. Get the berry cream filled one. There is also a food truck: underground donuts. It’s my “next try.” Also if you like eggplant parm, the best IMO is at Pietros on Rittenhouse sq. 🙂