A Cathedral Without a Roof

Last week (or has it been two now?) my brother came into town for work, and brought along his lovely wife, and we spent two really sweet days with them in the city.

While my brother was in meetings, we picked up my sister-in-law from their hotel in Copley Square and went to find some lunch. We tried to take her to one of our favorite restaurants in Boston, but as we got closer we realized how close it was to the site of the Marathon Bombings. There were workers repairing the sidewalk a block or so down from it, and when we got to the restaurant itself, it was closed, and people inside were obviously trying to put it back together quickly, and a man was up on a ladder out front, retouching their logo painted on the outside of the building.

We kept walking, and I remember pushing the stroller, looking down at Henrietta's white lacy sunhat, and realizing it was so much closer than I had even imagined.

After finding another place to have lunch, we sat in the Public Garden, which is like a fairytale in the springtime, and Sam made Henrietta laugh hysterically by flopping a stick back and forth in front of her, and he said, "It will never be this easy again. I mean, I will never ever make her laugh with such small effort for the rest of my life." (And it's true; we've tried the stick game since and she gives us the this-is-really-boring look that she's been perfecting lately.) I took a million pictures, and it felt like the perfect sort of day. Even Henrietta seemed to be having one of the best days of her life. And we packed her back into the stroller and headed back to the hotel to meet my brother, and I stopped every few feet to take pictures of the blossoms against the buildings, then hurried to catch up again.

In Copley Square, I had Sam stop for a second so I could see the impromptu memorial. There were newscasters in front of it, wearing their most serious faces and serious hairstyles, and holding microphones, and there were all of these people walking around, adding things to the stacks of flowers and baseball caps and letters. I stepped into the area, and it was so quiet, so unnaturally quiet for the middle of downtown Boston. It felt instantly sacred, like a cathedral without a roof, that reached all the way up to the spring sky. I've never had that happen before in any memorial, but this was so raw, so new, and the space felt exactly what it was, like a monument to the sorrow of a city, as if these objects and offerings really did hold our collective shock and mourning. I walked slowly, feeling all of it, imagining the days these people had--whether they were nearby when the bombings happened and surprised and grateful to be safe, or whether they watched from home, eating dinner in front of the news, shaking their heads. I wish now I would have added to it, added my own token of solidarity and love, but I was too overwhelmed by it, and it felt almost sacrilegious to take pictures--like I was taking something when I should have been leaving something. It was, I think, the most sacred space I've stepped in for awhile.


belann said…
Quite a mixture of the beautiful things in life: little Henrietta, family, spring, and the terrifyingly sad. Began reading with a smile, and ended with sadness.
Amara said…
Oh that last picture made me cry! Running for me is such a hopeful, saving sort of thing. It's horrible to have it be so closely associated with death and pain and suffering. The juxtaposition so well expressed in that picture broke me down.

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