*Lyrics from James Taylor’s classic Fire and Rain. James Taylor equals Massachusetts to me. And this song is sad, and mournful, and at times joyful, and really feels like an anthem for the week we all just shared. All my love to the families and friends of those we lost this week.
I’m from Massachusetts. All my life, whenever I’ve left the area where I grew up in Western Massachusetts, people outside the area have assumed that if I said I was from Massachusetts that I was obviously from Boston. Now, if you’re even a little familiar with Massachusetts, you’ll know that you could never confuse the two regions (western v eastern Mass).
First, there’s the accent – ours is vacant, or perhaps vaguely Northeastern American, but not distinctive enough to make fun of (sadly). Second, there’s the city part. I grew up in a rural, farming area, where ‘city’ meant a main street with three or four blocks of shops. My hometown is approximately 30,000 people large, and the town where my parents lived in when they were married (and we were small) was populated in the three digits. One general store, one main street, that’s about it. Third was the weather. We had vastly different storm systems, often cutting diagonally through the state, with the Eastern part getting rain, and the Western part getting snow, or Eastern Mass getting a hurricane/nor’easter, while Western Mass got nothing. They were coastal, we were in a plain between ‘mountain’ ranges (sorry actual mountain dwellers, we called those short hill-ish things mountains, so that’s what they are to me). My experience of Massachusetts set a mild rivalry between west and east – although we did grow up saying wicked a lot – and we all sort of understood that you could never lump us together as a whole. Not really. I mean, sure, we all rooted for the same sports teams (but so did most of New England), and we all voted the same way (not block to block, mind you, but when averaged out there is more blue than red, but not by much), but we were different.
After this past week of events in Boston, I’ve never been prouder to be from Massachusetts than I am now. I’ve never been prouder to be confused for a Bostonian (though I would never take credit for being one), nor have I ever had so much affection for my fellow Commonwealth dwellers. We may be different. We may not ‘pahk ah cahs,’ or get ‘wicked cahked’ on the weekends, or understand that being from the coast in one of the longest settled American cities means that you’ll never fully be able to ‘get there from here.’ But we are proud of your achievements, Eastern Mass. We are proud of your determination and drive, Boston. We are proud of your love, your care, your tenacity, your fearlessness, your loyalty, your generosity, your selflessness, your strength. We are proud to be united.
I spent the past weekend visiting and catching up with old friends and family that we don’t get to see nearly enough who live in Washington D.C. Each of us had ties to Boston in many ways – friends, colleagues, school chums, relatives – and all of us were distracted, deeply concerned and then physically relieved and elated once the imminent threat was thwarted. (As elated as you can be while of course remembering all of those lost and injured, and everyone who was affected by the insane events of the week.) And we were proud. As Massholes (a term I hate, but is used with sibling affection by neighboring state dwellers), as a resident of Taxachusetts (fair term, but we like it that way, because we take care of our own), as a native of a state that will always be home.
Keep strong, Boston. We’re with you, now and forever.