I spent most of last week at a conference in Boston, a city I haven't visited in an extremely long time. It was unexpectedly lovely -- amidst the usual unpredictable cruelty of Massachusetts weather, we enjoyed a beautiful summer evening on my first night in town. I went for a run on a route traced out for me by the hotel: from Boston Common along Cambridge Street, across Longfellow Bridge and along the Charles River, then crossing back over on Harvard Bridge and running along the Esplanade back to Cambridge -- a nice four-mile loop. As I ran, I kept thinking, "I am not in New York, these are not New Yorkers, this is another city where people live. And it is beautiful here." Sunset over the water, sailboats bobbing along. Brilliant office towers reflecting the orange-yellow light. Running blindly and confidently.
One evening I abandoned the conference program to visit with my grandparents and aunt in nearby Beverly. I was proud of myself for navigating the commuter train and making it to the Beverly Depot, where I had a great summer dinner with my aunt and grandfather (steak, grilled out in the spitting rain; salad, potato salad, sliced tomato (first good one of the year), brownie and ice cream, Bud Light) and then went on to the hospital where my grandmother was unfortunately checked in. It had been five years since I had seen this side of the family, and being with them again felt easy and familiar. I saw unexpected glimpses of my dad in my aunt's features or my grandfather's gestures. Their home was full of pictures of my sister and me, Alice and L. I felt like I had discovered some kind of reservoir of love, and I felt horrible and strange about letting so much time pass between visits. It was wonderful, but it came with a certain ache, too. I called L when I was standing on the dark, rainy platform, waiting for the train to arrive to roll me through the night back to Boston, but we could barely talk before the flashing lights and clatter of the train roared into the station.
Another train ride and a few days later, and now I'm back at home.