I moved to New England decades ago, this in itself does not make me a local. Around here you have to be native to claim roots and better yet, your great-grandparents need to have been born here to stake a serious claim of them.
I had come here from New York City, and always considered that city to be the place where my heart is held. I was a transplant there too but New York is long accustomed to an influx of strangers and it was an easy place to feel part of, to feel at home in.
Boston on the other hand, is a tough nut to crack, almost impregnable in some ways. At times the whole place and all of its people can seem to carry a a collective chip on the shoulder. Strangers might be treated warily. Over the years I have met and been embraced by some of the most wonderful and warm people I know here in Boston, but I never have felt “of ” this place. Returning home after a trip never made my heart jump in excitement the way the first sight of the Manhattan skyline still does.
This all changed five days ago on Marathon Monday. My shock , grief , anger and fear were a reaction to what had been done to My city, My people. I knew that for the first time in all these years I was a Bostonian.
Yesterday Boston and the surrounding suburbs were in “lockdown” with the populace instructed to stay inside,doors locked ,told not open their door for anyone but the police with proper identification. Rumors flew, on TV and in social media, actually the whole week had been like that. There was no way to know what was real , the whole population was clenched like a prize fighter’s fist.
I spent the day alternately glued to the often undependable news , listening to nonstop conjecture and then turning everything off ..and then baking … and then knitting… , in short, whatever I could think to do to feel centered and to calm my jumping bean nerves. I could only do this sporadically and could never relax into it completely… eventually tuning back in to the barrage of what was mostly non-news. And then, by near nightfall, it was all coming to a close. It was announced that people could once again venture outdoors, with the caveat to be vigilant as one suspect was still at large, “armed and extremely dangerous” . He was the surviving one of the two brothers held responsible for Monday’s horrid events (the other killed in a bloody gunfight in the middle of the night in a neighboring town). Minutes later, we were told he had been found. He was successfully apprehended, wounded but alive. I was flooded with feelings of elation and gratitude. I felt so very proud of my city. The chip on the shoulder which I had previously observed now transformed in my eyes to a badge of courage, I was so grateful for and proud of the work done by law enforcement and by the citizenry. I went to bed, feeling utterly spent but fully safe.
Today, my feelings are more complicated . I am still so very grateful but the elation is quieter and the grief for the lives and the innocence lost have found their way back in. I am remembering this morning that there is a long road still ahead in healing for those victims who lost their family members, their legs, their joy… and for all of us to fully regain our sense of safety (which we know anyway is an illusion but it can feel blessedly real at times).
I think about people who live in parts of the world where every day is spent in the kind of turmoil one day of which left me feeling completely undone. I can’t even imagine what their lives would be like. I hope I never have to live life like that and I am filled with compassion for those who have to do so.
I feel sadder and wiser. I also know the Boston Marathon next year will be a thing of beauty . I know it will bring tears to my eyes… and I know I am not alone in this.
Love that dirty water… Boston, you’re my home.