I spend a lot of time writing and thinking about love. These musings are mostly about romantic relationships, or a search for self-acceptance. Sometimes I write about a bigger, more general kind of love– brotherly love, love for the world. I have been thinking a lot these days about one of the great loves in my life. It’s not a relationship with a person or a pet, but a place.
I was born at Brigham and Women’s, and raised in every corner of this city: in a Victorian house in Dorchester and the quiet playground on Beacon Hill. I had a backyard in my grandmother’s home in West Roxbury, and on Saturday afternoons I wandered the shops on Newbury Street after doing kung fu at my father’s martial arts studio. MIT students helped me with my homework. My brother was almost born at a North End restaurant. I fell in love in Jamaica Plain and crossed the stage at Symphony Hall to receive my high school diploma.
The list can go on, and on, and on.
For several weeks now, I’ve been thinking about the post that I wanted to write, as a tribute to this place I call home. It is with a heavy heart that I share these thoughts today.
Never in my life would I imagine that events like yesterday’s could ever happen.
Marathon Day is one of those times every year that brings the city together. School is called off and work is cancelled. Families and tourists and college kids (in varying states of inebriation) gather along the street to cheer for the runners and experience Boston with the rest of the city on pause. It is fun, but also a terrible inconvenience for those people who still have to work or have important things to do while a race course cuts through our every day lives.
But like so many inconveniences in Boston, we bear it with pride. Our sports teams were failures, but we loved and defended them anyways. Our winters are brutal, our summers are sweltering, and to call our public transit frustrating is usually an understatement. We freely complain about these and any number of the nuances of our city, but if an out-of-towner were to make these same remarks, they would be met with bitter retorts.
This city might be flawed, but these are our flaws, and any outsider who complains about them can go fuck off.
Even though my husband was also born and raised here, he grew up oblivious to this sort of regional pride. From the start of our relationship, we have bickered about the proper name of our favorite ice cream topping– which, clearly, they are jimmies, although he insists they are chocolate sprinkles. He timidly entered rotaries with his blinker on, while I shouted, “Dammit, Kyle, drive like you’re from Boston!”
My friends from out of town have complained about Bostonians being so grim and having sticks up our asses and never smiling when we pass strangers on the street. Maybe it’s our latitude. Maybe it’s a trickle-down effect from our Puritan roots. Maybe it’s New York. Whatever it is, we keep ourselves guarded– the perpetual underdog– and sometimes that might even put a chip in your shoulder.
But not yesterday.
Yesterday, the strength of our city shined as our doctors and nurses treated those wounded by the bombs. While I could complain any other day of the week about police officers talking on cell phones on duty, I was relieved to feel like they had the situation under control. We opened our homes and tried to help any way we could. And, we briefly put down our pride to accept prayers from across the country and around the world.
I went to bed last night feeling like someone had broken my heart. And I woke up this morning, not feeling much better. But the sun was shining and I tried to carry on my day as best I could, and I know other people were out there too, doing the same.
I cannot shake the haunting images of Boylston street– where I walk all the time to go to kung fu or wait for Kyle to get out of work or spend an afternoon writing at the library– filled with smoke and splattered with blood. And I know, there are places in the world, where this happens every day. Every day. I think about how hollow I felt when I opened my eyes this morning, and I know there is another girl, from another city, who must feel that same way, and feels that way every day.
This violence is madness. It is senseless. It needs to stop. And I want to believe that we can do this better, live our lives better, with more love.
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.