[ The BPL, this past summer. For reference, the Marathon finish line is just on the other side of the building to the right. ]
I didn’t want to write about Boston until I was back in Boston. I just pulled into the garage and dumped my bags down in the doorway and here I am. Writing because I have so much to say about my city… and I don’t know if I have anything really to say at all. Funny how that goes.
Nuno went out of town this weekend and Paulo and I went up to Vermont to hang out with my parents. I whined a lot about Marathon Monday and the crowds (AND THE CROWDS) and the pain that is having huge parts of my neighborhood blocked off. I feel awful now about just how happy I was to be leaving the city. Phew, I won’t be here for the Marathon!
And of course, in some ways, I’m so glad we weren’t here. We live a little more than a block away (more than one block, less than two) from where this picture was taken. This wasn’t just our home city that was attacked, it was our backyard. All of the horrible photos from a street I walk down nearly every day. It’s unfathomable. Photos of the aftermath and the runners reuniting with family – some were taken practically on our doorstep. It’s surreal to recognize your city, your daily life, your home in such heartbreak. And truly, it’s been heartbreaking. Sickening. All of it.
But under that… there’s been something else. There’s been a new love. Not for humanity or running or the bravery and selflessness displayed in tragedy, but for my city itself. I had never been Boston’s biggest fan. I groused about moving to Boston before we moved here last (we lived in Boston for a while previously – long story short, we’ve been doing a slow tour of Southern New England for the past five years). I tried to like it… and failed. I hated my neighborhood, which is a rather ironic thing to say when “my neighborhood” was three houses down from the Public Garden. But truly, I never liked living in a tourist attraction or in an area where my neighbors had fur coats that cost more than my college education. I was more than happy to leave and go back to Providence, which has always from day one felt like *home* to me. (It’s too bad living in PVD didn’t work out for us, but that’s neither here nor there really.)
I resigned myself to moving back this summer. It’s been gradually growing on me since. I knew we needed to live in a city and for so many reasons, Boston just made the most sense, so I put aside my myriad complaints and went for it. I was still far from thrilled and wouldn’t have ever necessarily called myself a “Bostonian” despite sharing my zip code with the Pru.
Boston is a tough city in so many ways. It has so very few soft spots. And this wound in my city’s fabric opened a soft spot in my own heart. There were little cracks where a certain love for the city was gradually seeping in, and now it’s like it’s just rushed in like a flood. This is my HOME. There is nowhere else on earth I’d rather live, would rather proudly refer to as home.
Tonight when I drove in, “Down in the River to Pray” came over my iPod as I rounded the corner of I93 in Medford (Meh-fid in local parlance) and the skyline came into view and to use the phrase “all the feels” doesn’t even cover the feelings I had for the city in that moment. We’ve all shared this horrible moment, and now it’s time for us to all share in the healing.
I’d – thankfully – never before been in the place of being in the center of a tragedy. Watching the destruction of Vermont in Hurricane Irene coming closest, but I hadn’t lived in the state in years. This is… more raw. More tender. I’ve received so much support and seen so much love online and I’m so grateful. At the same time, I’ve seen so many clichés and so much filler – so many posts and comments that just feel like… you have to comment or you look insensitive.
As a Bostonian, you don’t have to comment. I know you care about us. I know you’re thinking of us. Your candle photos and your “our hearts are with Boston” don’t feel comforting, they feel like going through the accepted motions of tragedies that we watch without any real connection. If you want to be helpful, if you want to be comforting, share photos of your favorite parts of the city. Share your favorite things about Boston. Post the ducklings or the Red Sox or the skyline or anything that’s not another blurry candle. Yes, I’m a grump about this – I know. But I’m a Bostonian and we’re a bunch of grumps. It is our way.
If you feel like donating in a more tangible way, The Boston Children’s Hospital has seen too many children this week. Here’s their wishlist.
To donate directly to runners and their families who were affected: One Fund Boston.
If nothing else, blast Sweet Caroline and dance around your living room.
With all of my love from my new favorite home city.