Back to Boston

sure1There’s nothing like visiting an old stomping ground to give you a real benchmark for the changes in your life.

This past weekend, we traveled up to Boston for a quick 3-day visit. Cheap airfare on AirTran was the impetus, starting us on our new commitment to visit all the major cities in America as it becomes convenient to do so. 

img_0160With no rental car and accommodations at the Parker House (famous for their Parker House rolls, Boston Creme Pie, and the distinction of being the oldest continuously operated hotel in America — not to mention the world’s most comfortable beds!) we set out to explore one of America’s oldest cities.

This morning when I mentioned my trip to my Facebook buddies I was reminded of the decades that Boston represents to me.

Having grown up in New Hampshire, Boston was the school trip destination of choice, with its historic sites along the Freedom Trail to its theatrical offerings, there was much to do for a bunch of hicks from “Cow Hampsha”. The thought of keeping track of a hundred wide-eyed teenagers around Faneuil Hall is more than my adult consciousness can bear!

Then there were the days with the Granite State Garrison Drum and Bugle Corps. from Keene, NH , a thrown-together group of band and color guard geeks from the Monadnock region. We’d rehearse all week during the summer then travel the 2 hours to Boston almost every weekend to participate in the Eastern MA circuit of DCI in places like Revere, Somerville, and Medford. We even managed to win our division the last year I played.

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In the years that followed I would travel to Boston by myself just to go exploring. I recall the trip that resulted in an electric piano purchase from the Steinway store that cost probably twice what I could have paid in Keene, and the trip home that almost landed me in Granite Lake when I fishtailed on black ice. 

A decade later, I became a sales rep to the Natural Foods stores in Boston. A couple of weeks a month I’d travel to Beantown to convince people to buy stuff  that I wasn’t convinced of myself, but the freedom of being on my own and traveling around Boston was enough to help me dream up some good reasons to buy what I was selling. It was in those days that I came to appreciate just how incredibly hard it is to navigate around Boston in a car!

sc-of-amerThere were the trips just for fun later but still no real reverence for the true meaning of Boston to America. Since then, I have learned much more about the United States, about our history, and in particular after reading “The Sacred Contract of America” by Caroline Myss where she talks about what the founding fathers of our country truly intended for America and how very far away from that vision we have gotten. 

With her thoughts in mind as we walked all around the city, I felt like I really experienced Boston for the first time. We walked: all through the North End and had some phenomenal Italian food for lunch; past City Hall where so many have stood and demanded freedom — most recently, the successful fight for gay couples to marry — through the Holocaust memorial; up over Beacon Hill, still as quiet as it must have been 300 years ago; across the common, full of such a mix of people enjoying an early spring day; up Commonwealth Avenue and across the bridge to stand inside MIT, whose students’ mathematical abilities make mine seem like a thimble-full in a great ocean; through Harvard University with a chance to rub John Harvard’s toe for good luck; eavesdropping on a group touring the Granary Burying Ground on the Freedom Trail and learning about  James “Lead Head” Otis, America’s first streaker. I finally really SAW Boston! 

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As we sat in a “cubicle” in the Old North Church where two young patriots (whose names escape me at the moment) risked their lives to light the lanterns in the windows of the steeple eight stories above the church that alerted the Minutemen via Paul Revere that the British were coming across the Charles River and advancing on Lexington and Concord, I listened to the young man telling us about that night and noticed that he had a particular speaking style that seemed familiar. I thought about it for a minute and had to grin when I recognized the cadence as that of our new president, Barack Obama — a new oratorical hero for a new generation of Americans. 

Now, in the midst of my 5th decade visiting Boston, I discovered a new appreciation of what our country stands for. Though it seems like everything around us is falling apart with our economy in a tailspin and Americans everywhere scrambling to figure out what to do next, I am reminded of the spiritual hunger of those first Americans. I don’t mean spiritual in a religious sense, but rather in a “Spirit of America” sense. Many of us have rolled over and played dead, hoping that the current wave of destruction won’t pull us along with it, but others who had been dead are coming alive again, recognizing a renewed sense of optimism to build a fresh country from scratch, just as the colonists did. 

I  haven’t felt such a degree of enthusiasm in a long time. Don’t ask me what it is exactly because I can’t name it. I’ll just think of it as “blank slate euphoria” — like nothing has ever been and nothing ever will be — it is only today, right here, right now. 

Yet, it has been our progress as a people — our successes and our failures that have brought us to where we are and always we have gotten up, brushed ourselves off, and tried again. I feel wide-eyed, like those first trips to Boston, seeing those still proud buildings nestled among the skyscrapers reminding me of where we’ve come from and where it is yet possible to go. 

My niece teaches History to high schoolers in South Boston — “Southie” — and in listening to her talk about our educational system and her enthusiasm for our new President I realize that Patriotism is alive and well! The revolution for the liberty to agree and disagree and the responsibility to govern ourselves that our founding fathers began is rising again and we are taking back the freedom to live our lives as the spirited Americans our ancestors foresaw.

As our plane taxied out yesterday in the sleet and snow that made the previous two days of sunny, 60-degree weather seem like a dream, I said a silent thank-you to the city that started it all. HUZZAH!!!
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  1. March 10, 2009 at 11:32 pm

    What a wonderful tribute to Boston. I remember how I felt as the Boston skyline came into view all those years ago aboard a bus. I still get a fraction of that excitement whenever we go now, but for different reasons. I have some wonderful memories in that city… some old, some recent and I think, more to come.

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