Today wasn’t the perfect day to begin with. I’d planned a day off to spend time with the kids on their first day of Spring Break. Instead, most of my morning was spent working, and filing and paying taxes. The morning was gone in a heartbeat, but, even though I had squandered this day of freedom on busy work, something made it feel like the perfect day.
I’d finished a couple loads of laundry. Dishes were done. The sky was crystal blue, the kids were still excited about yesterday’s news that we were headed to Fenway to see Paul McCartney in July, and six-year-old Thing2 and I were heading out to the garden as soon as I checked my email for any fires from work. And then the day caved in.
I sat down at my desk and checked my email. I finished repairing a database for a customer, flipping back and forth between work and webpages while I waited for things to upload. Nothing much was happening. The gun background check legislation was front page along with fluff pieces on Tax Day. I wrapped up my email quickly, hoping to go spend some quality time in the garden with Thing2. It was only as I was shutting things down that I noticed the big yellow headline on the front page of Yahoo!
By now everyone’s learned of the bombings at the Boston Marathon. Part of me wishes I had ignored the word Boston in that yellow strip and preserved what little was still perfect about this imperfect day. Boston was our town once upon a time. It’s where the Big Guy and I lived when we were first married. It’s where we explored art and culture and each other. It’s where we got addicted to Sunday brunch at the Freedom Trail Diner (since replaced by a shi-shi bistro). It’s where, thanks to the Big Guy and the adventures our town offered just outside the tiny backyard of our basement apartment in the North End I learned to believe in people again as I left behind a life that had long been lived in fear since an armed robbery in another place and another life.
Now, as the sun goes down, Boston is under a shadow of fear. The Big Guy takes things in stride, but I can tell he’s numb, as am I. We haven’t mentioned this at all to six-year-old Thing2 (We’re still going to Fenway in July, and I don’t want his joy tainted by the fear of things that we can’t control). Twelve-year-old Thing1 is much more aware, however, and I can see the news has him upset. Like most of New England and much of America, I’ve been glued to the internet since learning about the lives ended and torn apart on what is normally a day for a city to celebrate itself.
Ironically, the internet has, for once, been a small antidote to some of my numbness. Fred Rogers once advised parents to tell children in times like these to look for the helpers. Today it’s been easy to see those helpers in their Boston Police Department uniforms and fluorescent jackets and vests, running toward trouble when they should be running away. But I’ve also seen plain, ordinary people stopping to help complete strangers in all kinds of need. I’ve seen a shirtless runners who must be exhausted after a 26.2 mile run stopping to help a man down on his back. I’ve seen an ordinary man shielding an injured woman with his body and trying to resuscitate her. I’ve seen pictures of everyday people cradling other everyday people, even though they must be terrified.
Boston may go to sleep tonight under a cloud of fear, but I don’t think it’s going to live under it for long. One thing that city taught me was that nothing is completely safe, and, while you have to be vigilant, you still have to live your life. Chaos tried to upend the city the day today, and I’m sure fear and anger will be part of what propels the search for the deluded person or persons who thought killing and maiming innocent people was an effective way to influence a country or a city. But the fact is that it was humanity and courage that prevailed today. We have the pictures. And those pictures tell me that this town that holds so many memories and lessons for me and the Big Guy will not surrender its soul or character to fear.