Tuesday, April 16, 2013
To Boston, with love
My heart has a home-sized hole in it right now.
I didn't just live in Boston, but I loved it as well. When MIT turned out to be The Wrong Place For Me it was Boston where I found safe haven, asked myself who I really wanted to be, and started to rebuild my life from scratch. It was Boston where I went back to school and finished my degree at Boston University. It was Boston where I met the woman who would be my wife. It was Boston where I realized that I wanted to be a librarian, and it was in Boston at Simmons College where I finally made that dream come true after many long years. It was Boston where my daughter, who was born with a rare metabolic disorder, was treated for years by kindly doctors, nurses, nutritionists, and phlebotomists- the most wonderfully gentle of all hospital employees- at Mass General.
(When my daughter was born, I skipped out of work on my lunch hour and walked to the pro shop on Yawkey Way so I could buy my little girl a tiny Red Sox outfit- she wore that outfit to a game against the Philadelphia Phillies during that unforgettable 2004 season. I remember that I was so proud that she stayed for all nine innings; the rest of that year, of course, was history...)
Boston, I have walked your streets- so much that I feel that I know every crooked cobblestone by heart. How I loved nothing more than an urban hike along miles and miles of your glorified cow paths until I couldn't feel my feet anymore. Some days all I would do is walk- from Beacon Hill to Southie, from the Back Bay to the Arboretum- and back again, much to the chagrin of the poor unsuspecting friends who would visit from more car-friendly locales! And as much as I loved to hate on your quasi-reliable system of public transportation, I was enchanted with the T ever since my first night at MIT, when a bunch of upperclassmen whisked us down to the Kendall Red Line station, pressing subway tokens into our hands, and took us out to dinner in the North End. I remember seeing your skyline from the Longfellow Bridge at night for the very first time, and the magical sight of the Custom House rising above Quincy Market and Faneuil Hall. From that early moment on, you had me, Boston. I was yours.
I have closed down the Crossroads, bowled candlepin beneath Fenway Park (and peed in your legendary troughs at my first Red Sox game), and laughed as people got 86'ed for trying to dance at the Black Rose. I ate Chinese food for the first time in Boston's Chinatown. I went to my first concert in Boston, when I saw Howard Jones play at the Paradise. I remember camping out all day on the Esplanade for July 4th year after year to hear the Pops and catch the fireworks, and watching the man-made lightning storms and Laser Floyd shows at the Museum of Science. I have fond memories of going elbow to elbow with the tourists so that I could spend my last dollar on a gyro from Mykonos Fair at Quincy Market, getting lost in your museums- the MFA, the ICA, and the Gardner... oh, the Gardner!- for hours on end and wishing I could stay for days instead, and playing in the fountains with friends at the Christian Science Church headquarters on a boiling hot day and ignoring the rude looks from the Nieman Marcus staff when we wandered around their store dripping wet afterwards. Even when I moved further and further away from you- first to Cambridge, then to Somerville, Lynn, Peabody and finally on to Gloucester- you were always close to my heart, and my wife and I eagerly seized any opportunity to bring our daughter down to Boston and introduce her to this city that we'd both come to know so well and love.
And of course, I remember the Marathon. I had the great fortune to watch the marathoners run by on many a Patriots' Day, that peculiar local holiday which grew on me even as it confounded me every year when I tried to figure out whether or not I should come to work and how to commute through a sea of a million-odd runners, fans, and curious onlookers. Funny, before we decided to move to New Haven last year, I remember suggesting to my wife that we take our daughter down to Boston to see the Marathon, as she'd never yet beheld that grand spectacle and we felt strongly that she was missing out on something special. As it was, I had many friends and colleagues who were there yesterday- some of them at Mile 26. While the people I knew closely were all unharmed, I suspect that it will be quite some time before anyone who was in Boston that day will feel safe or whole. My heart breaks for the families who were injured or lost a loved one in this senseless act of terror on what has always been a day of celebration- of liberty, of sport, of the marathoners' courage, endurance, and triumph of mind over matter.
Yesterday I said that words failed, but I was wrong. The words are there, and there are many more words out there that are more eloquent than mine. Words from people who experienced things that no one should have to live through, words from everyday people who witnessed selfless acts of heroism, or became heroes themselves. Words from Boston, whether they are from Bostonians or from people who traveled from virtually every other nation on earth to share in the magic of this quintessentially Bostonian day. The person or persons who perpetrated this heinous act may have thought their actions would destroy that magic, but if so, they gravely miscalculated, as the darkness of their deeds was quickly subsumed by the goodness of humanity and the big-heartedness of a city like Boston, my adopted home. My words feel empty and cheap right now as I type them, but I know that millions of people who have known and loved Boston as I have are out there feeling exactly the same way that I do right now.
Thank you for everything that you've given me, Boston. Twenty-odd years ago you took this Jersey boy in, and I will always be grateful for the time I spent living in the Hub of the Universe. I grieve with you now, but that just means I will be all the more joyous when you come back even stronger than before, like I know you will.
See you next Patriots' Day.