My mother grew up south of Boston; my father north of Boston. When they lived in Boston, together, they were in Back Bay off Beacon. When I lived in town, it was in Southie, like my grandfather before me. When my cousins lived there, before and after me, they lived within walking distance of Fenway.
One aunt and uncle lived in Wellesley, another in Belmont. One aunt and uncle still live in Winchester, as do both of their adult children. My wife's father, the son of Irish immigrants, grew up in JP just off Green St.
That's just family, because the list with friends would be too long.
Forty years ago this spring, a Harvard MBA in hand, my parents left Boston for The Job in New York. The plan was to move down for a "few years," after which they'd come home. To Boston, to New England, to their family. Like many such plans, this one didn't survive contact with reality. With a little luck, my parents will be finally be coming home this spring, almost forty years behind schedule.
This is how my brother and I came to be raised in New Jersey. Although we grew up less than forty miles from Yankee Stadium, however, we grew up as New Englanders. Which meant, of course, that we were taught to root for all of the New England teams.
My first baseball game was at Fenway Park. The kid sitting next to me was hit with a Jim Rice foul ball and had to be taken out of the park in a cart. He got to keep the ball. The Celtics games were on TV even in New Jersey, and while I can't speak for my brother, I sure as hell pretended to be Larry Bird while hurling up bricks at the hoop in our driveway. Hockey came to us via a Sega Genesis that we were never supposed to get (thanks, Santa!); we played as, quite naturally to us, the Bruins.
While I was at Williams, and I'm pretty sure this was true of my brother while he was at Bowdoin, I eventually gave up telling people that I was from New Jersey. “Where are you from?” “Around Boston,” I’d say. Not because of all of the turnpike jokes and certainly not because New Jersey wasn't a fine place to grow up - I loved my hometown, and the people in it. But it was just easier. What people really want to know when they ask where you're from is how they relate to you. What you have in common. And my brother and I were, in substance, more New England than we were New Jersey.
Which might be why I took to Patriot's Day so easily. When I first got to Boston, Patriot's Day seemed, honestly, as legitimate a holiday as the Hamburglar's Birthday. Businesses shut down, bars open for day drinking, a morning Red Sox contest synchronized with Kenyans finishing a 26th mile faster than I could run one? An extra day to file your taxes, even? The holiday had a mythical quality to it that was and is hard to explain for those who have never been a part of it.
It's addictive as well. To make the Patriot's Day game in 2007, I took a red eye home to Maine from Denver, then got up before five the next day to drive through a monsoon down to Boston. We won that day. And like every other year, I wandered over to the marathon finish-line after the game.
Just as I would have this year. I'm in the other Portland right now, which is why I had to turn down a friend's tickets to the game. Based on the timing, it's not probable that I would have been caught in the blast, but it's possible.
Which isn't important, as far as I'm concerned. Death by terrorism is a shark attack problem; horrifying to contemplate, let alone witness, but extraordinarily unlikely to affect any one of us. Even now, even today.
What is important is that we remember, as Bostonians, as New Englanders and just as people, that the object of terrorism is to inspire terror. It's the terrorists' only tool, and their only tactic. Which means that it may only work if we let it. Which I will not.
I am not flying back through Boston this trip, having instead flown out of my local Portland. JetBlue understands "if your plans have changed," and is apparently granting waivers to those with Boston travel plans. Understandable, and probably commendable on their part.
But I wish now that I was flying into Boston. I wish that my business took me there this week. And I'm going to plan on being in Boston for Patriot's Day next year. Because keeping calm and carrying on is the only way. Also because, well, it's Patriot's Day.
The Boston Globe's Kevin Cullen, in an otherwise brilliant piece, says that "we will never feel safe again in our own town." I do not agree. This implies that our safety is something tangible, something that can be taken away from us against our will. I believe it is, rather, a choice. And I choose to not give those seeking terror what they want.
Technically we are not safe today, that's true. But how is that different from any other day? We never were completely safe, and we never will be. The sooner we all learn to live with those facts, the better. I will change precisely none of my plans with respect to Boston as a result of this attack, just as I didn’t give flying a second thought in the wake of 9/11. As Paul Ford says, my refusal to be terrorized will still leave me infinitely more likely to perish from cancer or a heart attack than terrorism. Things it is reasonable, if pointless, to be afraid of.
When I heard about the 78 year old who was knocked over by the bomb blast, only to get up and finish the marathon, I thought of my parents. Because that's what they would do. That's the kind of people they are, and that's the kind of people their parents were. They’re Boston people.
I can't see how I can be any less than that, even if I technically grew up in New Jersey.
Hold fast, Boston.