Five years ago, almost to the day, we were standing at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. Crews were working to complete the set-up, tourists and townies were milling around, many like us were happily taking photos. A few marathoners were looking in awe at the patch of ground that symbolized completion of a hard-fought journey.
We had recently arrived in the city on a visit to test the waters, trying to decide if we could make the cross-country move and call it home. I spent our first day there feeling overwhelmed. Boston was big and busy and people lacked the southern graces that tempered conversations at home. The T felt new and exciting, but also unfamiliar and claustrophobic. The city streets were teeming with people and buildings and smells that disoriented me. What can I say, I’m simple folk.
On this day, we were making an epic walking journey, starting from where the 57 bus dropped us off at Kenmore Station all the way to the North End. And in the middle of our trip, we came to stand at the Marathon’s finish line. At that moment, the fog lifted. The city I appreciated from a distance came into focus, it became real. I knew–like millions of people in the country and around the world–that this finish line was a special place. For over a hundred years, people from all walks of life crossed this line and felt a sense of completion. They had proven to anyone watching that they could succeed at an immense feat of training and willpower. If you met a person who had completed the Boston Marathon, you were in the company of a powerful human being. And nearly an entire city took the day off to cheer them on, for every inch of 26.2 miles.
As we stood there, I could feel the history of Boston. I could feel the vast pride of its citizens. I could feel the heartbeat of a city populated by people who were born in its borders and in counties far away. I felt how lucky I was to be there.
We did move to that city. We tested cannoli, we tested the water on Revere Beach, we tested ourselves against the frigid, unending winter. Boston is where our marriage took root and it’s where we faced some of our greatest hardships thus far. I was in the midst of the city when my husband called and burst into tears as he told me my father had died. Shaken and still uncomprehending, I couldn’t force myself onto a stifling train, so I just walked across the city. It was my only companion as I passed through crowds of strangers. It was steadfast and ageless when it felt like my life was crumbling. At Copley Square, I sighed heavily as comprehension slowly came over me. And I went into the ground to catch a train home.
I’m writing this because I treasure my time in Boston, though it was brief. It is a strong, beautiful place. It’s citizens are tough and they are resilient. Boston is hurting, and Bostonians around the world are hurting to be there, to heal the brokenness and embrace the broken. And while I have less of a claim to the city than many, I want to be steadfast for Boston like it was for me.