Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Thinking of You, Boston

Paul Revere Statue in front of the Old North Church, Boston, Massachusetts, July 2012, back from Korea on Home Leave and trying to show Son#2 a little of his heritage.

As an expat kid, I grew up without what are conventionally referred to as 'roots.'  I didn't grow up in the same town or even the same state;  I had attended four different elementary schools in three different countries by the time I was 10 years old.  If you asked me where I came from, I knew the answer was 'America,' but a real hometown?  I didn't have one - not exactly.

So, when people asked, I told them I was " from Boston."  It was the place where my grandparents lived, the place my father and his 5 siblings had been born, the place I'd been born, and the place my parents met and married.  It was the location of our 'permanent address in the US.'    Never mind that I didn't remember having lived there:  that's where I was from, where my extended family lived, and the place that my parents referred to as 'home.'

Over the course of the next 10 or so years, I ended up spending more time in Massachusetts, visiting relatives in the summers and at Christmas -sometimes in Boston, sometimes in other towns.  I played with my cousins in the snow(the first snow I could remember seeing!) during my first Christmas back in the US;  I got up at sunrise and went digging for clams with my father and my grandfather at Wollaston Beach. I sat at the kitchen table while my father's 5 siblings, their spouses, my cousins, neighbors, and friends, came and went and drank coffee and stayed to catch up with my parents whenever we were in town.  I walked with my grandfather through the North End, watching old Italian men sitting outside in the sunshine playing chess.  I ate New England boiled dinners, franks and beans and brown bread, fried clams.  I drank coffee out of thick white china cups at Dunkin' Donuts and ordered frappes at Howard Johnson's.

We moved again - this time to Germany - but when I came back, it was to Massachusetts.  I did my first year at University there:  I got my driver's license there:  I lived and worked there during summer and winter breaks when my parents moved back to the US;  I attended weddings, funerals, confirmations, and graduations.  I drove 'down the Cape' on weekends, rode the 'T,'  went to concerts on the Common, fought for parking near Fenway, skied with my father in the Blue Hills, and played tour guide at Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market whenever company came to visit.

Eventually, I finished grad school, got married, had kids, moved Out West. My grandparents died.  Trips to Boston became rarer and rarer.  By the time we flew back for a family reunion in 2005, my own boys were well into their elementary-school years, and had never lived north of the Mason-Dixon line or east of the Appalachians.  'Boston' to them, was a place in the history books, somewhere they'd only read about - to them, it was just another city, one that meant something to their mother and grandmother, but not much beyond that.  And for me? A place full of beloved faces, warm memories, wonderful times from years gone by, but, yes, a place from my past.

And then, yesterday, when I opened up my laptop and saw the news about the attacks at the Boston Marathon, I realized that it was all still with me, still part of me.  The people I loved, the places I loved, the experiences that shaped me - so many of them, in Boston.

I'm not a native Bostonian in the truest sense of the word - but a part of me, a part of my heart, will always think of Boston as 'home.'  And, today, thousands of miles away in Korea, that part of my heart - along with the hearts of millions of people across the world - is aching for the people who have lost loved ones, who are hurting, whose lives have forever changed.

I know Bostonians, and I know they will come through this with grace and dignity and a tough New England spirit.  Today, this rootless expat kid is proud to have called Boston 'home' despite so many years and so many miles, and today, Boston, I am thinking of you.






10 comments:

Karen said...

Well said, Carolyne. I am also not from Boston but have spent many happy times there over the years. My heart grieves for all those people...they are my neighbors.
Karen

MsCaroline said...

Karen - yes, I have been thinking of you, too. Right in your backyard, so to speak, and I know you must have many close ties.

Scott said...

That's a beautiful article, Carolyne. Thank you. ~saf

MsCaroline said...

Scott - thanks, but I just wrote down what was true- some of my best memories are there. Hope you and all of yours are safe. Was watching on FB all day yesterday.

Stacy said...

You have captured it perfectly. The home that's not a home, or hasn't been in a long time, but the ties still bind us. I think those are what people call heartstrings. Beautiful post, Carolyne. I have been praying for emotional, spiritual and physical healing for the people of Boston. It's going to take a while and it's going to take all three. Thank you for sharing.

MsCaroline said...

Thank you so much, Stacy. It is really hard to explain what places can mean to rootless people - so hard for those who stay and put those roots down to understand that even a few days, months or years can be very powerful for those of us who move so often. Your prayers will probably be needed for quite a while to come, and I know that they are felt.

BavarianSojourn said...

Beautiful writing Caroline. I just can't get my head around things like this, it's just so very sad :(

nappy valley girl said...

Such an awful thing to happen to a city. I can see why you think of it as home. I've been there twice, and had a really good vibe from the place - as you say, I'm sure it is a resilient city and will come back stronger from this. New York certainly has done from 9/11.

Trish Burgess said...

This is a beautiful, heartfelt post, Carolyne. Ties to a place can come from many sources: I think your attachment to Boston is very understandable.

MsCaroline said...

Emma - Thank you. It's really been so sad to see all the photos, thinking we were just there in the summer.

Nappy - yes, a lot of comparisons have been made to NYC after 9/11, and I can definitely see that resilience.

Trish-Thank you. Even though it's been years since I've lived there, I've always felt a special connection. It surprised me a bit how strongly I felt when I heard the news.