|Paul Revere Statue in front of the Old North Church, Boston, Massachusetts, July 2012, back from Korea on Home Leave and trying to show Son#2 a little of his heritage.|
As an expat kid, I grew up without what are conventionally referred to as 'roots.' I didn't grow up in the same town or even the same state; I had attended four different elementary schools in three different countries by the time I was 10 years old. If you asked me where I came from, I knew the answer was 'America,' but a real hometown? I didn't have one - not exactly.
So, when people asked, I told them I was " from Boston." It was the place where my grandparents lived, the place my father and his 5 siblings had been born, the place I'd been born, and the place my parents met and married. It was the location of our 'permanent address in the US.' Never mind that I didn't remember having lived there: that's where I was from, where my extended family lived, and the place that my parents referred to as 'home.'
Over the course of the next 10 or so years, I ended up spending more time in Massachusetts, visiting relatives in the summers and at Christmas -sometimes in Boston, sometimes in other towns. I played with my cousins in the snow(the first snow I could remember seeing!) during my first Christmas back in the US; I got up at sunrise and went digging for clams with my father and my grandfather at Wollaston Beach. I sat at the kitchen table while my father's 5 siblings, their spouses, my cousins, neighbors, and friends, came and went and drank coffee and stayed to catch up with my parents whenever we were in town. I walked with my grandfather through the North End, watching old Italian men sitting outside in the sunshine playing chess. I ate New England boiled dinners, franks and beans and brown bread, fried clams. I drank coffee out of thick white china cups at Dunkin' Donuts and ordered frappes at Howard Johnson's.
We moved again - this time to Germany - but when I came back, it was to Massachusetts. I did my first year at University there: I got my driver's license there: I lived and worked there during summer and winter breaks when my parents moved back to the US; I attended weddings, funerals, confirmations, and graduations. I drove 'down the Cape' on weekends, rode the 'T,' went to concerts on the Common, fought for parking near Fenway, skied with my father in the Blue Hills, and played tour guide at Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market whenever company came to visit.
Eventually, I finished grad school, got married, had kids, moved Out West. My grandparents died. Trips to Boston became rarer and rarer. By the time we flew back for a family reunion in 2005, my own boys were well into their elementary-school years, and had never lived north of the Mason-Dixon line or east of the Appalachians. 'Boston' to them, was a place in the history books, somewhere they'd only read about - to them, it was just another city, one that meant something to their mother and grandmother, but not much beyond that. And for me? A place full of beloved faces, warm memories, wonderful times from years gone by, but, yes, a place from my past.
And then, yesterday, when I opened up my laptop and saw the news about the attacks at the Boston Marathon, I realized that it was all still with me, still part of me. The people I loved, the places I loved, the experiences that shaped me - so many of them, in Boston.
I'm not a native Bostonian in the truest sense of the word - but a part of me, a part of my heart, will always think of Boston as 'home.' And, today, thousands of miles away in Korea, that part of my heart - along with the hearts of millions of people across the world - is aching for the people who have lost loved ones, who are hurting, whose lives have forever changed.
I know Bostonians, and I know they will come through this with grace and dignity and a tough New England spirit. Today, this rootless expat kid is proud to have called Boston 'home' despite so many years and so many miles, and today, Boston, I am thinking of you.