I've been thinking of Boston all week, feeling like I couldn't possibly speak to what happened, not directly. That all I could really do is speak of my little corner of it, while acknowledging what a very small corner it was--which is what I tried to do on Monday, but it didn't sit right with me, didn't feel like what I really wanted to say. (This post, from a blogging friend, got much closer to how I felt.)
And I still don't feel like I have any right to talk about it, but I can't help it. I keep thinking about what it's like to watch the marathon. It's such a blissful day in Boston. It's the mark of spring. The blossoms are on the trees and the weather is usually good, and most people have the day off for Patriot's Day, and literally thousands of people come out to watch the runners. I'm not generally moved by sports--let's be honest--but I'm moved by that marathon. I can't help thinking of the stories, of how many runners are achieving a life goal, or running at the end of a battle with something, or in honor of someone else's battle, and I tear up, every time I watch. (I wrote about it a few years ago on the blog.) And all week I kept thinking that I can't imagine a more tender spot to hit this city. We love that day. We love that marathon. We love those runners, and we are all--in one way or another--those runners, and we are all--in one way or another--cheering them. To mess with that day is to mess with the soul of the city.
Last night Sam finished a story he'd been working on for a long time, and he wanted an ice cream sundae to celebrate, and we shared one in a little ice cream shop across from the river. The woman in the booth behind me was with her granddaughter, and I overheard her asking the girl what she thought of what happened in Boston. I listened to their conversation, and then couldn't stop thinking what I would tell Henrietta, should she be old enough to wonder what was going on.
I've heard people talk this week about how good people responded to what happened. I've seen that quote about helpers by Mr. Rogers. I've heard about the runners who kept on running to the hospital so they could donate blood. And I'll be honest: it hasn't seemed like enough of an answer to me. I haven't really understood how this meant anything substantial in the face of people doing horrible things like blow up the finish line of a marathon. All the nice people in the world can't bring that eight-year-old boy back. All the nice people in the world can't return the limbs to those that lost them. But last night, thinking about what I would tell Henrietta, it suddenly made sense because it seemed clear it was the only thing that could made sense. To be able to tell her that there were good people who run toward trouble and help without hesitation: it doesn't take away the ugliness, but it really is the only thing that can begin to ease the shock and sadness.
That, and this: after dinner this evening Henrietta had a giggling fit. I ran to get my iPhone and took a video which you can watch below. There she is, not terribly far from this horrendous situation, and she is wearing a pink sweater, sucking on a piece of raw kale, and giggling with her entire body. All over the city people are trapped in their houses while sirens wail, and yet there are perhaps thousands of babies that had very good days, who giggled and crawled and looked up at their parents with enormous eyes and reminded them that there were plenty of good people, and abundant beauty, and that ugliness can't block all of the goodness, no matter how hard it tries.
I wish as swift and painless a resolution as possible. I wish healing for those injured and comfort for those who lost people they love. I wish for a sunny and sweet day soon, a day as bright and full of blossom as the Marathon Monday we expected, the one we never had and need now more than ever.