Wednesday, August 18, 2010

On Being a Boston Resident Again

I alone am back where we began.

I wonder if when my parents decided to build a family they knew it would disperse into an American diaspora, with pieces scattered across the Southern Tier, around the Great Lakes, and at times as far as California. We are individuals with our own paths who, for a brief period in time (in the grand scheme of things), formed a cohesive unit in a few select majestic cities and sleepy towns.

What many people don't know is that it all began (or rather, I began) in Boston. New York, of course, stuck with my sister and I the most, perhaps because it hosted our most formative years or perhaps because it’s just that kind of place. My new room in Boston is filled with maps of and tributes to New York—a sepia photograph of a snow-covered Central Park, an artist’s rendering of the dominance of the subway lines over the geography of Manhattan, an old New Yorker cover, a postcard that screams in eerie ghost-like letters “NEW YORK IS A FRIENDLY TOWN.”

New York proclaims itself unabashedly. Back on 168th Street, my gateway from my home on Fort Washington Avenue to the 1 train, I used to pass an enormous red sign draped over the skywalks of New York-Presbyterian Hospital announcing, “Amazing Things are Happening Here.”

Now, I am walking the streets of Brighton and Brookline, noticing no such proclamations of greatness or friendliness. I see a few “Boston’s Best” claims, decent marketing ploys but not quite infused with the specific certainty of New York’s self-descriptions. Yet this is where the McGee-Tubb family began. This must be a friendly town, where amazing things happen, or else we wouldn’t have began here!

Cambridge has always been a magical place for us, a place where upon arrival we feel some immediate and deep attachment. For now, here, it seems as though our tendency to carry our places with us is limited solely to the streets and nooks of this one Boston city-suburb. Conversely, somehow New York pervaded us and we fell for the city as a whole- as much as we inhabited it, it inhabited us. Though Morningside Heights occupies a special drawer, the entirety of Manhattan and even some portions of the outer boroughs belong to us as places we used to own.

Will all of Boston encompass me? Will the entirety of this place become familiar enough and steeped-full-of-my-life enough that it travels along with me throughout the rest of my stops and stations?