Originally written on April 22, 2013. For Chelsie, the city of Boston, and the promise of restoration.
My father used to live in Boston. He also used to live in Chicago and spent a year in South Korea in the service. Now he lives in south Miami, but whenever he speaks of Boston, there is so much promise padding the punctuation of his sentences. That is, just before the winter rains of wounded regret soak him to the bone.
He has encouraged me to move there ever since I can remember. “The schools there, incredible. The history, unbelievable. And the people are so nice. Really intelligent. That’s the place to raise kids. To live as a young adult. To retire. It’s an amazing city.”
I have imagined the brick buildings and collegiate hallways and efficient public transit for years. The coffee shops and the springtime bike rides. Snowy Christmases and iced windshields. My thoughts have painted its stony sea. When I have dreamt out my life, I have always lived there for a season.
My father told me once that he wished he had returned to Boston after Korea. He didn’t meet my eyes when he said it, because we both knew what he meant.
He met my mother shortly after his return from Korea in an office where they both worked, in the city where they married and where I was eventually born. In this city stinging with sweat and sand. In this city brimming with uncontainable traffic. In this city that is not Boston.
I don’t know any more about Boston than the next person. I know about a couple universities and what team to root for during baseball season. And I know a dear friend-turned-sister calls this place home.
She is one of the most beautiful women I know. Truly, she is my very favorite version of herself; with stunning blue eyes and a voice that calls upon the angels, that stirs up the beauty of creation in the gentlest of ways. Her heart for her city inspires me to open my heart for my own.
So when I discover that today, during one of Boston’s largest marathons, two explosives went off just before the finish line—hurting a rising number of runners, bystanders, and first responders—my heart moans words I cannot pronounce, ruptures like a volcano the scientists did not predict. Buckled knees and bent posture, I am crying out on their behalf. The pictures on the news reveal chaos stained red.
I am a thousand miles away, but my heart has never been closer. For nearly all of my life, this city has been a consistent symbol of refuge and restart. If all else failed, that is where I would go. This is the place that would show me what makes my heart beat. This is the place that would remind me how to live once again.
My father echoes this, mentioning every so often how he desires to return after retirement. White hair conventionally flies south, but we are a backward people. After all, he is only grey. I encourage him to go. “Maybe we can visit it together,” I suggest.
We are different, yet alike. We both seek the same remedy.
Perhaps it is not in the bricks or the coffee but instead in the spirit of this wild and lovely place. A city of sunrises kissing the coast of a cold blue sea, the heart of God beats for Boston. I have rarely been so sure of anything else in my life.
Boston does not have the answers, but hope does. Hope that resides in the subways, the street corners, and the soup kitchens. In the neighborhoods, the universities, the businesses. In the libraries. In the apartments. In the city parks. Hope that claims victory over death. Hope, with a name all His own. Didn’t you know? Jesus lives in Boston.
Friends, this city isn’t finished. It is only beginning.
Because when I think of Boston, I think of butterflies.