Monday there were two explosions close to the finish line of the Boston Marathon. At the time I started to put my thoughts down on paper, Boston was in the process of evacuating as the authorities hunted for more suspicious devices.
Boston is the city of my birth. Though not truly my hometown–Gloucester, a coastal town about thirty miles north, is where I grew up. But I always felt Boston was my city.
My whole childhood is tied up in Boston and Cambridge, twin urban areas facing each other across the Charles River. When we would drive along Memorial Drive in Cambridge at night I felt that the lights of Boston reflected in the Charles were like a glittering jewel box. On crisp autumnal evenings, we took meandering walks among brownstones while the leaves made their annual display of rich colors. We shopped for Christmas presents in bright store windows in the dark depths of icy winters. In spring, first crocuses, then forsythia unfurled like banners leading the charge against the cold. In summer we walked around the lake with the swan boats in the Public Garden, and I looked for the line of statues dedicated to the children’s book “Make Way for Ducklings.” We celebrated Fourth of July there, with the Boston Pops Orchestra playing while the Charles reflected fireworks.
I could go on endlessly with the minutiae of memories that are flooding back to me, overwhelming with nostalgic sights, sounds, with the feel of the sun or a sudden blast of icy wind by the steps of the Public Library, with the smells of roasting chestnuts, of food stalls at Faneuil Hall. My life is richer, so much richer, for having had Boston in it.
But with all the feelings of home and hearth called forth by such recollections, it surprised me to realize how long it’s been since I was last there. It occurred to me on Monday that the last time I was in Boston was nine years ago come summer. I was, at the time, on my three days’ leave from the residential summer camp where I was working as a compliance officer to ensure we passed our once-every-three-years American Camp Association inspection with flying colors (we received a 100% score.)
It was hot. I bought the new Harry Potter book. I stayed in a hostel overnight. The next day I went to meet family friends and stayed with them in Hamilton, MA. At the end of that summer I drove to Bronxville, NY, to start my final year at Sarah Lawrence College. Then I moved to Florida, back in with my parents, while I decided what to do next, then to the UK when I started graduate school. With my family gone from New England I had no reason to go back to the old place. Every time I visit the States it’s to stay with family, and though I miss Boston, I haven’t had the money or the occasion to return there.
And as I considered that, I thought also of the many friends I have come to know in various places over the years. Even though as I went to bed on Monday evening it thankfully transpired that they were all safe and well, I suddenly wished I could see them all and express my gratitude for having them in my life, even if we’ve fallen out of touch over the years and across the miles. And Boston, too, has been a friend. A friend that I cherish, despite the years and the miles.