Boston. The way I know it.

I wrote this post a year ago after I just got back from Boston. I left the day before the bombings. A year later, I am finally publishing it.

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I left Boston on Sunday following a tearful goodbye with my niece and nephew and heartfelt embraces with my brother and sister-in-law.

It had been my first trip there–part business and part pleasure–and I walked the cobblestone streets thinking that this could be a nice place to live one day. So much history, lovely architecture, good restaurants. Even the rain had an aura about it. 

Then Monday came and along with it the news. I’ve spent the last few days trying to get images out of my mind while simultaneously gluing myself to the news, searching for answers. Of course, the real answers we seek–the explanations for “why” and how”–will never come.

Last night, as I tried to fall asleep, I felt grateful for inane blog posts (like some of my own) that could momentarily take me out of my head and provide temporary peace. But the grief comes back, along with fears for the future.

It’s right to feel despair. It’s right to feel angry. But it’s also right to not give up hope.

I’m fearful that Monday’s events will take away my memories of Boston the way I first experienced it, so I’m using this post to recount what I experienced there. I refuse to let one person or group’s violence and hatred forever sully my memory of a city and its people.

While I was in Boston, the city was abuzz with pre-marathon activities. Runners were everywhere, exuberant about the upcoming race. The weather was cold and drizzly a couple of the days, but that didn’t slow the city down.

I finished my conference one evening and walked with some new friends to the North End. We warmed up with a round of beers at a pub and then had homemade pasta at a small Italian restaurant. Afterwards, we walked a little further to Mike’s Pastries, which was filled with people shouting their orders for cannoli and cheesecake slices.

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We planned to take the T back to our hotel, but as we waited in the station, three trains came by, each filled with fans from the hockey game that had just ended. So we chose to walk back instead, misted by a light drizzle on Newbury Street.

ducks

On Friday, I had lunch with a friend I met at another conference in Vermont last summer. I tried my first oyster, and she and I caught up on the events of the last year. I window shopped at the Prudential Center and bought Patrick an MIT shirt.

On Saturday morning, my niece and nephew climbed into bed with me in the morning, and I held them both as tight as I could. I played with stickers with my niece, and giggled with my nephew as he tried to tickle me. Then the kids, my brother, my sister-in-law and I bundled up and walked to the Public Garden.

The kids showed me the Make Way for Ducklings sculpture, and we noticed that someone had put bonnets on the ducklings. It was the first day the swan boats were open, and even though it was cold, we enjoyed the second boat ride of the season. Weeping willows reflected in the pond, and I explained to my niece how the boy ducks and the girl ducks had different colored feathers and how you could tell them apart. We quacked at them, and they quacked back.

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ducklings

After the swan boat, my brother and I accompanied the kids on a nearby merry-go-round on Boston Common. My nephew rode a zebra. My niece hopped on a jewel-encrusted pony. We waved to my sister-in-law as we passed.

Following the merry-go-round, we stopped at Starbucks for something hot to drink. A homeless man was standing outside singing. He called out to passersby in a baritone singsong voice: “Anybody got any change? Anybody got any change?” A lady with two dogs walked by. He sang out, “Anybody got any huskies? Anybody got any huskies?” I admired his direct approach and found some loose change in my pocket to put in his cup.

We walked a bit longer before heading home to get the kids ready for their naps. That evening, my brother and sister-in-law took me to a couple bars in their neighborhood. I sipped on fancy cocktails and relished being around such vibrancy.


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The next day, I packed up and prepared to head home, thankful for a wonderful trip and for such special time with my family.

Today, I thank God that my family in Boston and the friends I have there are okay. I pray for those who weren’t so lucky and for the loved ones of all the victims. And I thank God people around the nation are gathering together in solidarity to prove that light penetrates darkness.

I didn’t buy any souvenirs in Boston (other than the MIT shirt for Patrick). I brought home a few photos on my phone, a handful of business cards and some priceless memories. While I’ll never forget what happened the day after I left, I will cherish the memories I have of my trip to Boston. It’s a place where people are thoughtful enough to put bonnets on bronze ducklings when it’s chilly; where the homeless don’t beg–they sing; where children find endless joy on public merry-go-rounds; and where runners will always continue to run.

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