I’m taking a break from posting about ED recovery today, and sharing with you a piece I wrote about my beautiful city three or so years ago. My boyfriend was at the marathon when it happened, so I am counting my lucky stars today. Love to all of you.
When I am leaving the picturesque peninsula of Winthrop to meander into town, I often stop at the Dunky’s on Rt. 145 to pick up an iced coffee. The best thing about this Dunky’s is the view from the drive-through window. It gazes directly onto the Boston skyline in the South, and closer yet the Atlantic gently rocks sailboats into Winthrop Bay. The tip of the Belle Isle Marsh frames the water with ocean roses and healthy green shrubs, and fishermen lazily cast their lines off of 145, chatting undoubtedly about the latest Boston sports debacle. And the best thing about this sight is the “Entering Boston” sign that perches on the edge of 145. It is perhaps miles away from the unassuming skyline, but plays a trick on your vision and seems to take its place amongst the Hancock Tower, the Prudential, and all the forgotten cow paths.
“This can be a cold place, Boston, and the weather is the least of it. We’re often unwelcoming to outsiders. We have a maddening trait of sniping at insiders. We have equal parts determination and aloofness proudly bred into our native bones like the hunting instincts in a champion dog.”
– Brian McGrory, The Boston Globe, March 2002
So, taking that indisputable quote into question, how could one fall in love with a town such as this?
As with any love affair of mine, I scorned it at the start. Starting in high school, I’d felt a pull towards the West Coast. Who wouldn’t? The weather was dry, the girls glamorous and the promise of success, especially in theater, was plentiful. But I hadn’t the means or quite honestly, the guts, to leave my family and the friends I loved for this promise land. And I despised myself for this. Oh, how I hated myself for this trait. Was something wrong with me, I questioned myself. Was I addicted to the pain and misery of snow, old dysfunctional family patterns, and snobby intellectuals?
Despite this, I would spend my Saturdays as a 16-year-old in Boston. I felt drawn to it. I would drive the car into Alewife, and ride the Red Line to Harvard and Boylston and Lechmere. I would escape into the city and play a rich girl on Newbury, pretend to be Bohemian in Harvard, and make-believe myself a tourist in Faneuil Hall. It beat spending afternoons in a town I never felt safe in; I could get lost in Boston and no one was there to criticize the outfit I was wearing or the way I looked. I was free.
Later, through stories my mother told me, I would learn my Nana Pearl would do the same thing as a teenager. She rode the commuter rail to Boston by herself, spent what little money she had on some little trinket, and would explore the city. It was then that the seed was planted; I knew both her and I possessed a trait that was so uniquely Boston: a gritty autonomy so stubborn that could not be swayed.
As time went on, I still yearned for California. I had planned to move at the end of 2005, but illness got in the way. As I healed myself, I healed my relationship with my city. I realized that it was not a change of location I needed, but a change of attitude.
In December of 2005, my roommate and I decided to throw a Christmas party, which of course meant the worse ice storm of the decade would hit at 7pm that night. As revelers called to cancel, I grumpily trudged through the snow and bitter winds to Demoulas to buy too many appetizers for guests who couldn’t come. I blew my bangs out of my face dispiritedly as I passed a grinning man on Highland Ave shoveling heavy, wet snow. I muttered a greeting to him, to which he yelled,
“Lovely night we have here, isn’t it?”
I smiled in spite of myself. “Yeah, lovely night to throw a party too.” I laughed and gestured towards my grocery bags.
The man stopped, wiped the snow out of his eyes, and put his shovel down. “Oh no! That’s too bad my dear.”
“Yeah well, what can you do.”
He looked at me for a minute, and then nodded towards the twinkling Christmas lights at the high school. “But would you have it any other way? ”
And I knew right then that I was lucky. Lucky to live in a town where snow fell during Christmastime, where adults could become kids again by making snow angels, and where history and legend was teeming out of every cobblestone.
Since then, I have spent lazy afternoons on the Common reading , chilly nights in the North End ice-skating, and mornings gabbing over fruit plates and Ole omelettes at Soundbites in Somerville. I have played the scholar in Cambridge and have browsed art galleries in the South End. This city has cradled me and allowed me to fall just far enough to find out who I really am. For that, I will be forever grateful.
Two years ago, a close friend left Boston for a Southern state. We had met for coffee one last time before she moved. As we chatted, I noted that she seemed genuinely done with Boston men, sports and anything yankee.
“When will I be done?” I asked, almost plaintively.
“You’ll know when,” She had responded firmly.
Do all love stories come to an end? I should hope not. I believe this particular one will be timeless, no matter where I go or how embittered I become with rapidly-changing forecasts. This town, with its liberal leanings and humble buildings, helped me to grow up, and nothing can replace that. Not the bright lights of New York, the music of Austin, or the architecture in Chicago.
And until I am done, I will hold onto the secret that only I know.