Choosing colleges to apply to was such a shot in the dark. There would be no college tours for this country girl, my family couldn’t even afford the fees just to apply for a college. I was fortunate that my high school had a great financial aid program and awarded three college application waivers. I knew this was my one shot to go out into the big world and live life in a crazy new place with crazy new experiences. So, being from the most southwestern state in the US, I set my eyes on the extreme northeast. I wanted to go far and go big…and see snow for the first time. I applied to Amherst, Wellesley, and Boston College. And that Fall, I packed my winter wear (two long-sleeved sweaters) into my beat-up suitcase and stepped onto the beautiful campus of Boston College.
I loved Boston.
It was an incredible experience. It was as different from Hawaii as you can get. Splotches of green ivy meandering across the walls of brick buildings. Chewing on a sweet hunk of fried bread as you walked down cobblestone streets. Shuttle drivers shouting out in thick Irish accents as loud Irish music blared over the radio. And driving? I learned that Boston drivers are affectionately (sometimes not so affectionately) called Mass-holes. Aw, that charming Massachussetts humor. There were multi-lane roads that didn’t even have those convenient white paint lines to give you a hint where your lane was. Cars battled for space and made their own lanes wherever they could fit. I was a passenger many times but I never had enough courage to actually drive in Boston.
I did learn many other things during my four years there. I learned I couldn’t live without chapstick. I learned about this strange sandwich they all love, the “fluffer nutter.” Peanut butter and marshmallow fluff. I tried it. Not a fan. I learned that bars are called pubs. I learned that the consonant “r” can be left out of words on a whim. Parking your car? Yeah, you don’t need those pesky r’s. Just leave `em out. I learned Irish step dancing. I’m not kidding. It was one of my electives during senior year. My instructor’s daughter was only 12 at the time but had a standing contract with Lord of the Dance just waiting until she was old enough. I also learned new vernacular. “Pop” instead of “soda.” And “wicked.” I gleaned after four years that “wicked” was an adverb you used when “very” just wasn’t doing justice. That’s wicked cool. He’s wicked tall.
I learned that Bostonians are crazy over running. I have never seen so many people running in my life. Every day, from 4-7, the roads were just littered with people running. Rain or shine, in the deep of winter with black ice or snow coating the roads, there they were…running. I grew up in paradise with the mildest weather where we have no excuse not to run, but I’d never seen so many people running in my life. That’s just what they do.
And every year, the city comes to a stop on Patriot’s Day and all eyes are fixed on the city’s pride and joy, the Boston Marathon. Unlike the Honolulu marathon which starts in the wee hours at dawn, the Boston Marathon starts later in the morning at about 9 because of the cooler weather. Patriot’s Day is a state holiday so everyone is free to watch and cheer on the runners. I was lucky enough to get a first row seat. Boston College sits right on the marathon route. It’s a huge day of festivities and fun as students BBQ on the lawns and cheer on the runners. Boston College sits at the top of what’s known in the marathon as “Heartbreak Hill,” a long stretch of Commonwealth Avenue that starts to climb around mile 20 of the marathon. By the time they near the top of the hill at Boston College, some of them are clearly struggling and the roar of the crowds seem to re-energize them.
The last thing I learned was that the friends I made in Boston weren’t too different from the friends I left behind in Hawaii. Family oriented, food-loving, and beaming with pride for their hometown. We could be complaining about the sub-zero temperatures, months of gray weather, and black ice that coated everything, but if I dared to suggest they move to somewhere else, they would cry “What? No way…there’s no place like Boston!” Hockey, history, clam bakes, the leaves changing to the colors of a fiery sunset….they’re proud and they have a lot to be proud of.
While my husband and I were watching the unthinkable act of cruelty at this recent Boston Marathon, that was the question that kept running through our minds.
Why would anyone expend energy and time into an act such as this? What could they stand to gain? My theory…they want the feeling of power and the attention they think they’ll receive. I wonder if they’re watching it play out over and over again on every media outlet in glee.
So, I don’t want to waste my thoughts and worries on them. They’re scum. They don’t deserve an ounce of anyone’s attention. But the people of Boston certainly do. So I didn’t look at the explosions. Instead, I focused on the actions of the heroes, the race officials, the police officers, the firefighters who defied human instinct and ran towards the danger. I watched in amazement as they moved instantly without hesitation towards the booming flames, tearing down the barricades and racing towards the victims. I cried at the photos of bystanders comforting victims lying dazed and hurt on the grounds. Through the ugliness, the beauty of humanity persisted. I want to shout into the wind “you should have thought twice before messing with Boston!” Bostonians are tough, they won’t back down, and they don’t give up. I fell in love with Boston and now, so has the rest of the world.
I’m not just proud of you, Boston.
I’m wicked proud of you, Boston. Because you’re wicked amazing.