OK, I think it’s kind of a lame song. Nothing compared to Frank Sinatra singing “Chicago.” But regardless of soundtrack, eight years ago yesterday, Boston became my new home town. I was four days post-college-graduation, starting my one-year master’s degree program at Boston University a few weeks later. In fact, I was starting it later than the program intends, because my undergrad college gets out so late in the summer that I actually missed BU’s first summer session and had to double-up my classes in the 2nd session.
At any rate, I got off my plane and went straight to the BU student apartment office to pick up my new keys. My dad was in the area for meetings, so rented a big van and met me there. I had only a suitcase or two with me, and had shipped some of my random tchotchkes and books to my aunt’s house up in the ‘burbs. In one short day, my dad and I hit the store for a bed and dresser, futon/couch, TV, and desk. We spent the rest of the afternoon assembling my bed and the futon so we’d both have somewhere to sleep that night.
That first summer was a little on the lonely side, but I did enjoy my new city. I lived practically right under the Citgo sign, and my neighborhood was a madhouse during Red Sox home games (I even went to two of them that year – that’s me on the left looking a lot younger and thinner… sigh.). I threw on my rollerblades and went up and down the Esplanade. I hopped shuttle flights to visit friends who had moved to New York or Washington, DC after graduation (no one else had moved to Boston, sadly).
At any rate, I met M through a random set of circumstances a few months later, and stayed in Boston. I think part of me always thought I’d return to Chicago, and maybe that will still happen. But I also remember spending time with my aunt that first summer. My mom’s sister, she’s the only one of the seven siblings that does not live in our home town. That summer, eight years ago, she welcomed me to Boston and told me I’d never leave. So far, it’s true. I’m settled in the suburbs with my husband, my kids, my dog, and my 30-year fixed-rate mortgage. But never say never…
I’m a little ambivalent on Massachusetts, to be perfectly honest. On the one hand, I really like it. I love the history and the charm, the rolling landscapes (I come from the midwest, it’s flat as far as the eye can see), and the politics (blue as can be, baby). I get a kick out of how small New England is, and how easy it is to get from one state to another. But there are things I don’t love, as well. While people are nice, they aren’t as openly friendly as the people I grew up with in the Midwest. There, you said hello to strangers you passed on the street. Here, you avoid eye contact whenever possible. Privacy can be good, but it can also be isolating. And the “smallness” of New England seems to translate into an attitude of “why go anywhere else, everything you need is right here!” Sure, there are people who travel and all, but as a guidance counselor who’s “not from around here, are you?” try getting your seniors to apply to college any farther away than Albany, NY. Washington, DC? Ooh, that’s far. They really just stay in New England. I don’t have a problem with liking where you grew up and settling there, obviously. But I do feel like sometimes you need to get away, in order to really make a conscious choice to return. Otherwise, you’ve just never left and have no experience of people who live differently than you. I don’t think it’s such a coincidence that the vast majority of the people I’ve become friends with out here are not actually from here.
But still, this is my home, and I do love lots of things about it. Would I have guessed, eight years ago, that this is where I’d be? Maybe, maybe not. Hey, I didn’t even think I’d ever be able to drive somewhere in Massachusetts without getting lost, so I’m making progress.