I fall in love with places. Deeply in love. I woke this morning to my husband singing Nancy Griffith’s "Love at the Five and Dime" and had to listen to the song on our iPod. It had been a very, very long time since I’d heard the tune. Anyone who knows me well knows I have a lasting affection for old Woolworth stores, the subject of the song. My father and grandfather both managed Woolworth stores and gave me bittersweet memories of being a child, taking over the store afterhours with my brothers while Dad worked. The old broken down five and dime represents some of the most stable years in my young life.
This morning as Bill and I sipped Saturday morning coffee, listening and reminiscing about the passing of stores and the passing of years, the Chicago Tribune blared its daily headline from my kitchen table: “MANHUNT OVER.”
I’m deeply in love with another place. Massachusetts and all of her close cousins in the New England states still have a mesmerizing power over me despite my lack of residency there for nearly two decades. When I returned to her soil to live after a six year spell in the overheated state of Florida, I wondered if it would be conspicuous if I knelt and kissed the ground in Boston. I was home, in a place I love with all her haunting antiquity.
This week, despite firmly residing in rain-drenched and flooded Chicago, my mind has lived in Boston, traveling her streets, remembering Watertown as my first place of residence in life, recalling trips to Boylston St. with my parents to eat clam chowder at The Pewter Pot, remembering giving birth to my four sons in Brigham and Women’s Hospital where so many victims were taken, remembering the faces and unmistakable accents of her residents, so many immigrants from other places washing onto Boston’s shores. I’m quietly, silently grieving from afar.
I feel I can’t justify the wordless grief that hangs over me, a grief because my loved ones weren’t killed or maimed. My city wasn’t terrorized. I’m not going through the trauma that first-hand victims are experiencing, that official residents are experiencing. And yet empathetically, I’ve been a resident these past days. I see beautiful faces, a beautiful little eight-year old boy and think of all those interrupted hopes. I’ve stared at my legs while working out and tried to imagine learning to adjust to prosthetic limbs – the pain, the loss, and frustration. And strike me down for saying this one, but I also look into the eyes of the suspects and see the ghost of someone’s beautiful boys, beautiful sons, and wonder how they veered so far off track and allowed hatred to rule their lives instead of being a part of our imperfect but rich American culture.
To watch images on the news of swat teams and bomb squads racing through the streets of Boston looked more like a far away battlefield rather than the place of American childhoods and memories. And while people celebrate in the streets at the arrest of suspects, I wonder at our new changing landscape that whisks away old department stores and all of our innocence. I just wonder.