I was born and mostly brought up in the western suburbs of Boston, Brookline and Newton. The path of the Patriots Day Boston Marathon goes right through both. I can’t think of anything more a part of my whole life than this race. It was one of those touchstones that we all just take for granted, it has always been there and so we assume it will always be there, whether we are really paying attention to it or not. Strange that as we grow older we become aware of all the people and events we think will never change and then abruptly they do.
It stands as one of my first real memories. Not one of the memories that you are never quite sure you really remember, or a family story placing it in your memory bank, but never being really sure if you recall it or just the story of it.
One of my very first memories is of walking with my Mother and my baby brother down to Beacon Street to watch the people run by. By carefully calculating my brother’s birthday and Patriots Day, I think I was not yet four. I should assure you that much like everything else now, the marathon was not what it is today. It was like a neighborhood parade, we would watch for about twenty minutes and that pretty much covered the race. No big crowds, just neighborhood people out for some fresh spring air after a long New England winter. I am sure I saw several years worth but the next clear memory would be in high school when as a teenager I watched it with my friends, and it was just one of the places we went as a gaggle of girls, hoping to flirt with the boys who all showed up in a group.
I am guessing that I took my own kids but by then it was beginning to turn into the media event it has now become. Still manageable, but the handwriting was on the wall that it would turn into the icon it has become. I am sure that it will go on as the première marathon in the US, but as we look back on it, it is no longer as we chose to remember.
Much as with the twin towers on September 11th someone has managed to remove a bit more of our collective soul, tarnish an innocent part of all our pasts and while it will still go on every year there will be a nagging reminder of the 2013 violence hanging over it. The coverage will always add the footage to the TV package and some people will opt not to take their kids. So another tiny piece of the fabric of American life gets torn away. Another thing that united all of us no matter where our families came from, gone. I pray that doesn’t happen, now at a time when we need one another even more than in the past.
One of the pitfalls of aging, your heart can only stand being broken so many times, and then it just stops. I so don’t want that to happen to me or to those I love.