You walk into Harvard Square with your kids, go to Mr. and Mrs. Bartley's (institution since 1960) for greasy burgers and milkshakes and are lucky enough to have Mrs. Bartley meet you at the door and usher you inside. She doesn't know you but receives you with the warmth and open arms of a grandmother. That is how we started our reentry, our twelve-twenty-eighty step program back to normal life in Boston, freedom restored.
Harvard Square bustled with students and grandparents and families roaming to nowhere, satisfied to simply gather and share with others outside in the power of numbers. The totality of the change was remarkable. On Friday I worried for my kids to cross a backyard in broad daylight and today I was unfazed as we split up inside the floors of books in the COOP. How quickly we resolve to carry on.
Walking down Mass Ave. to Bartley's there was comfort in the passing buses, the magazine stands, the airplanes flying overhead and the buzz of urban life. The silence Friday was deafening.
On Thursday, President Obama called Boston a perfect state of grace, one of the world's great cities because Boston opens its heart to the world. A Boston Diaspora that excels in every field of human endeavor. A place carried in hearts and minds from China to Russia, from Belgium to Africa, from Nashville to San Francisco. Mrs. Bartley greeted us with that same reassurance. With that of a grandmother who doesn't mind if you're late or dirty. You're home no matter your race, creed, nationality or religion. Bartley's is the American diner for everyone. Whether you became President or flunked out of Harvard. Whether you're a carnivore or an omnivore, whether you're five or seventy-five, you're home. We ordered burgers and milkshakes all round.
My father urged us down Holyoke where the cherry blossoms were in bloom, my daughter picked at flowers along the Charles River and my son collected sticks enough to settle into the riverbank and make a raft. Nourished and socialized we were moving into a calm, the next stage. I looked around and everyone was reaching for nature, peeling off with a sense of safety into our own stride and moment, a freedom that comes when the basics are nourished. When those basic needs are met, there is peace. It's that privilege that as a Canadian and now an American I have always had. Strong and free, resolute and independent these are the characteristics of an innovative, visionary society.
As I walked with my mom, each in our own quiet minds, mine went to the 170 injured people lying in bed and hospitals around the City. Another stage set in. Heartbreak. I found myself wanting to hear the stories from my children's school parents. The amazing Dr. D who is an orthopedic surgeon, Cambridge born and bred, and Dr. A who is head of head trauma at Bringham and Women's and Mr. K who I'd heard slept two hours those first few days last week leading his FBI team. What do I know of trauma this week? I only know the life of a mother who had to stay inside on Friday. And that is how I start to ache for Denise and Bill Richard and the people who've lost limbs. Then to my surprise, I started to feel empathy set in for Dzhorkhar Tsarnaev. Not forgiveness, yet, but a deep sadness that a young 19-year-old could go so wrong. Colorado, Newtown, Boston... all deaths at the hands of other children? Where are we getting it wrong?
I found the mental space to realize it's those stories we need to hear, the murmurs and anecdotes from those who protected us, nourished us and healed the injured. Our local town hall, Fenway Park, showed us on a glorious Saturday afternoon in spring what we needed most. Sweet Caroline, sweet Martin Richards, sweet sister Jane. We are ready to get back to Tom Ashbrook Monday on NPR who asks the questions and gives us a place to congregate and converse, we are ready for school after a long spring break week and we are ready to move forward. The storytelling will begin.
This is a city of the extreme literate I found roaming the COOP in the first hours of the new day and who I implore to put more thoughtful words down in the next few weeks around what we saw. This is the epicenter of US healthcare where our best and brightest medical talent rushed to the hospitals to save an eye, a leg, or a heart. This is a city of the most philanthropic financiers I know who will find ways to give and most of all, this is a city of families who will cook for friends who've been injured, take their kids, and teach them to walk with again with a "no-back-down-attitude." This is Boston. The stillness runs deep.
Heidi Legg interviews visionaries and change agents on www.theEditorial.com. She'd like to know whom you'd like her to interview next to start the healing.