The summer after I graduated college, my grandmother passed away suddenly of a stroke. She was the matriarch, the pillar on my mom’s side of the family. When she left us, her absence was a tangible thing that rattled the family. I remember sitting at her funeral, my head just swimming with confusion. I was sad, of course, but what hit me the hardest was watching my parents, my five aunts and uncles, and my grandfather positively reeling from the loss. I had only known this group of people in times of celebration–Christmas morning, Easter Sunday, etc.–on days when they were so thrilled to see each other and they laughed and told stories and caught up on old times. And now, they were in tears, broken and shaking.
A month later, I moved up to Boston to chase after a girl. It seems like ancient history now because that girl is now my wife and the mother of our two beautiful daughters. We were only in the city together for a year. But I never forgot Boston. I survived the winter, waiting for the bus to work in -28 wind chill. I became a Red Sox fan. I worked my ass off at jobs that just sucked the life out of me. But that town, at that time in my life, was something special.
We had no responsibilities. We’d find the way to game the $2.99 cheeseburger special at Charlie’s Kitchen so that we’d have a few bucks left at the end of the week for a couple beers. We’d swap crazy stories about our bosses or yammer on and on about work and gossip about who had hooked up with who from work. I worked five days a week at a camera store and pulled a double shift every Friday at a bar making nachos and chicken tenders and potato skins. It was right after 9/11, but we were young and unphased. We moved in together. We threw a Christmas party for 25 people in a 400-square-foot apartment. We were in love. It’s the city where I asked my wife to marry me, and the city where she said ‘yes.’
When my wife turned thirty, she had only one idea in mind for her birthday party. She wanted to spend it in Boston, surrounded by her friends and family. We saved for months, pulling together money for plane tickets, a hotel. I even booked her into a spa on her birthday for the works.
We spent one night revisiting our old haunts like Christina’s. The next night, we had an amazing dinner with family and friends. I remember my wife positively glowing from the evening’s excitement.
I was at work when news broke today, suddenly scouring Twitter, listening to the WBUR live stream and scouring every scrap of video and news I could find. I’ve only ever known the city of Boston as a place to celebrate. It’s the place where my wife and I fell in love and where we were young and ridiculous. It’s a place that has maintained a sort of innocence in my mind. But there it is, torn, rattled, shaking with fear, the subject of condolences from the President and prayers from around the world. The town I had only known in celebration was weeping and forlorn and I was thrown by it. I fought back tears and cranked the Dropkick Murphys to eleven in my headphones.
I know one thing for sure–the people of Boston will not stand for this. Things like this don’t just “happen” in the city of Boston, not without consequences. This city will not be phased by such nonsense–it’s in the DNA of the city. The Colonies cast off the damn British Empire from this town, dumped the tea and hung the lamp in the Old North Church, and grabbed the future by the horns. The people of Boston are proud and will not be deterred.
In the meantime, life goes on. My daughters, ages 5 and 1, don’t know what happened today. If the 5-year-old asks, I’ll talk with her, but otherwise I don’t think I’m going to bring it up. Instead, the sun will set tonight on another Monday, and rise tomorrow on another Tuesday. And we’ll keep moving forward.
The 5yo, in the bath, undaunted: