Before I ever dreamed of moving to San Francisco, I was an East Coast girl in (almost) every sense. I grew up in a large house in the forest of a small New England town, the “town center” anchored by two peeling church steeples, an old-timey general store and a graveyard. We were a winding drive and a slow MBTA ride from Boston, but we felt part of it all. The great Boston Common, MIT and Harvard hidden in the climbing ivy, Herman Melville, Jack Kerouac’s city of industry, mussels and ice cream by Plymouth Rock, Wellesley College, Kennedy. The dank rooms and cobblestone streets of Salem, Walden Pond, Paul Revere, grassy hills pocked with rifle fire. Layers and layers of history of generations and liberal thought flowing through the old trees. We all felt it.
And what’s changed? Those places have barely moved; only gentle shifts: the weathering of bricks, roads lengthening. Mildew spreads across a tombstone, the cold, encroaching Atlantic kisses deeper, limbs of oak crack in a storm. But the human world has changed. My friends have aged; they are tawny and moving about in other towns with lovers and husbands and fresh, new lives unpacked. My old house in the forest is abandoned now, slowly consumed by weeds and bramble — no — occupied by a different family, with modern memories seeding in their garden. My parents have aged; parted and charging toward unknown futures of their own.
And it means I have aged, too — and that memories are secrets held and Boston will never be home in the same way. Maybe it doesn’t matter, because the universe is endless. Or, maybe it does matter, because we are human.
Boston is a desperate memory to me. I leave New England to someone else; create, live and change it. Fill it with new feelings and layers and layers of new thought flowing through the old trees.