My dad grew up in Southie. If you aren’t from Boston, aren’t from Massachusetts, that has different meaning for you. To me, it means afternoons spent at my grandmother’s house, listening to white boys wearing gold chains pass on the sidewalk outside, trying to understand what they said. It means going to the playground with your grandmother as a ten-year-old, looking at the five-year-olds playing there, and realizing that any one of them could take you.
It means being young and far away from home and homesick. Not for any one person or place, exactly, but for a sense of the familiar. And then hearing that accent — that godawful, wonderful accent — spoken on the Tube by some punk, loud-mouthed Boston kid in jeans and a Celtics t-shirt — and smiling for the rest of the day.
It means having absolutely no interest in sports, not even in the Red Sox (okay, maybe the Red Sox) but hating New York on principle.
It means taking the train into Boston as a teen with your friends and realizing that all the stuff you read about in history books, the stuff that made your country, happened HERE, and that the founding fathers were pretty bad-assed after all.
It means that your husband — who can navigate anywhere in the world — will sometimes turn to you, the geographically impaired, after following a maze of one way streets to say in frustration “Where the hell ARE we?” and you can actually tell him.
It means driving through a blizzard at 65 mph with cars passing you on both sides. It means drinking Dunkin Donuts iced coffee instead of Starbucks in the summer. It means understanding that when Paul Revere did his midnight ride, he wasn’t shouting “The British are coming” so that people could hide. He was doing it so that they would stand up and fight.
It means that you swear allegiance at an early age to a city that pretends not to give a damn about so many things, but really cares so much. A city whose heart is big enough, open enough to break for those who are grieving. And tough enough to move forward, to give the finger to whoever did this. Tough enough to say, in that awful accent, ‘We ain’t done here. You haven’t beaten us, asshole. You never will.”