Beloved Boston

Boston was my home for two years, while I attended graduate school at MIT. In fact, Boston symbolized my first real departure from the nest. (A summer session spent in Sussex, England, doesn't count, nor do my two years living on campus at UC Irvine: I always came home on weekends.) I moved across the country, from one coast to another, into a different timezone and a more picturesque climate.

I picked MIT because I fell in love with Boston. The density of the student population; the patriotic feel of the city; the impassioned identification with sports and good international fare. I experienced my first proper autumn in Boston, entranced by the changing colors of the foliage. It was here that I learned to appreciate inventive ice cream flavors (like Toscanini's burnt caramel), whoopie pies (at Whole Foods), and Boston creme pie (at Legal Sea Foods). It was here that I felt the cold, choppy waters of the Atlantic--yes, frigid even at the height of summer--lap at my feet.

Winters may be freezing and austere in Boston, but life certainly doesn't slow down. Runners venture out across the Charles River. Boston Common teems with young children skating up and down Frog Pond. Coffee shops transform into student haunts. Naturally, when snow melts into spring, life returns anew, and a sunny day, no matter how chilly, will find denizens by the dozens sunbathing on public lawns. Because a nice day is measured by the dosage of sunshine, not the temperature read.

I left Boston in June 2009 with fond memories and a strong resolve to come back. Three and a half years would pass before I set foot in the city once more. My visit last November saw me less in Cambridge and more in Davis Square, where my younger brother has taken up residence next to Tufts University. But that didn't stop me from reliving one of my favorite rituals: With MIT as my starting point, I trekked across Harvard Bridge into Boston, made my way down Mass Ave. to Newbury Street, and proceeded to stroll nostalgically down Newbury and Boylston. I ducked into the Pru, paid homage to Shaws, and paused at Copley Square to admire the food stands. I wound my way through China Town, Little Italy, and the Back Bay before crossing back into Cambridge on the Longfellow Bridge. That's the beauty of Boston: it's scalable by foot. And you never grow weary of walking.

Last night, I was jolted from my slumber to learn of the attacks on Boston. Perhaps it was mid-sleep that I dismissed the words I was hearing as incoherent and mistaken. Impossible. Pristine, peaceful Boston, who could ever wish you ill? Deep down, I refused to believe it. I lay in bed all night, restless and furious, struggling to grapple with the truth. Today, that disbelief has surrendered to bitter acceptance.

I know I'll be back in Boston in the not so distant future. I wouldn't miss my brother's doctoral hooding for the world. But I worry that a heightened sense of security will beleaguer the city. I fear citizens' hyper vigilance morphing into paranoia. Boston, you are brave and above it all. Nothing will shake you, and nobody can bring you down. After all, the Boston anagram is "sob not." We shall overcome.

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