In the course of my New York childhood, my parents never took me to Boston. They were crazy about roadtrips and we took many, across the country, in a Chevy with vinyl seats, often during the hottest days of summer.
But no Boston.
My first trip here was when I was a nanny to a New York family at the end of my college days. The family decided on a week-end in Boston. My charge, being totally into her nanny, was excited the entire drive up. We were given our own room at the Ritz-Carleton, overlooking the Public Gardens. Her mom, though, always wanting me to branch out and meet real American kids my own age, suggested that they take their little one to their room and I go visit (and stay with) my charge’s older sister who was living in Sommerville.
My charge sobbed long and hard in deep protest. I was torn – should I please my employer, the mom, or please the little girl? I chose the former. It was the first time that I recall having deliberately disappointed a little child.
My second trip to Boston came when I just graduated from college and my friend, also a recent graduate, moved into her own apartment in the North End. She made me a dinner of chicken and peach halves. I remember nothing else about the visit.
My third and all subsequent trips came when I was already a mother, with children either with me or waiting for me. Most often we’d stay in Cambridge and take the Red Line into town, venturing out on long walks through parks, along twisty streets, trying to understand the heart of the city as best as we could in the few days we would give it during any single visit.
So today I returned to Boston proper. It was a trip that was destined to pull things together for me. Not surprisingly, I started with the North End, the Ritz being just one of those sad memories that’s best forgotten (so I told myself).
To me, New York’s Little Italy loses big time to Boston’s North End. It’s understandable. The exodus hasn’t happened here and you see evidence aplenty of the old community that my college friend said frowned on outsiders as it sought to protect its own.
The streets looked vaguely familiar, though honestly, I was most drawn to the foods and the cafés.
lemon and chocolate cream filled
the best cappuccino this side of the ocean
I could have spent more hours there, but I was on a mission. I wanted that Boston heart to finally come forward and make itself evident. And so I walked – down the hill, through the Public Gardens, taking it all in, as the rain doused the vast green spaces and people took shelter anywhere they could.
ducklings and others
a child with hope, and a bird
I ended up on a commercial street and I walked into a gallery. With paintings. I was interested.
I had done a lot of picture hanging this past week and I have even more ahead of me. Picture hanging is sort of symbolic. It’s the last thing you do when you move into a new place.
So too, this gallery was a kind of ending. Literally – it came at the end of my walk, on this last day of August. And figuratively, as I thought there about the way I had disappointed people, ever since that first trip to Boston and all the way through to now, and how often that happens in spite of our best intentions.