Last week I made one final trip into the city to say goodbye before the chaos of the moving process really took hold in earnest. As I have always done over the years when feeling out of sorts, I paid a visit to the historic wing of the Boston Public Library. The elegance and timelessness of the baroque architecture and Sargent’s beautiful murals have never failed to make me feel calmer and more centered when Im feeling run down, overwhelmed, or even just sad. In the dim, womblike enclosure of the upper level I almost always find myself alone, which is truly a rare thing in downtown Boston.
At this time the library was hosting a retrospective exhibition of Jules Aarons’ photographs of Boston Neighborhoods during the 1950’s and 1960’s and it felt appropriate to check it out and make contact with the city’s history one last time. But looking at these incredibly intimate and candid shots of street life during a time before I was born, I had a hard time relating what I saw to the Boston of today, the Boston that I know. I realized just how much the city must have changed over the years and how little I was aware of those changes. My presence here for these last 8 years has been little more than a blip on the city’s radar. So I started to wonder….do I really ‘know’ Boston at all?
Maybe that is a part of the sadness of leaving that I hadn’t counted on…this feeling that I have nothing to hold on to, that I cant take Boston with me because it isn’t mine, was never mine, at least not in the way that the people who have been born and raised here feel it in their very bones, feel that it belongs to them and they to it. I have loved my life here but in some ways I have always been just visiting, an eternal interloper or tourist. It seems that I have never had enough time to see everything, to learn everything, I was just passing through.
But Boston, I love you. I love you so very much. I love that your streets distain the thought of a grid, that they meander in organic madness and make walking more efficient than driving. I love how mom and pop stores from another era still cling to business in the midst of your most gentrified areas. I love the way that slick steel and glass skyscrapers sit shoulder to shoulder so companionably with crooked townhouses of aging brick and stone. I love your back alleys, where some of the best restaurants hide. I love your river that divides you from Cambridge, but never manages to keep you apart. I love your graveyards where the stones have been washed clean of memory by rain and wind. I love your suburbs, where each town retains its own unique identity, while still remaining loyal, and I love all of the amazing, challenging, and wonderful people that I have been privileged to call friends.
I love you for what you were, what you are, for all the things I have seen, and all things I have been blind to. You took me in and nurtured me, even though I wasn’t your own and now you are letting me go, sending me on my way to a new destiny. And maybe I have actually been privileged because I have never belonged to you….your sights have never become mundane and you have never ceased surprising me. Often an outsider can see things that a native cannot. So I hope because of this, you’ll let me carry just a part of you with me. Goodbye Boston, I will never forget you, and Im sure we will meet again one day.