I live in the South, with a capital "S." We drink sweet tea, I teach my children to say "yes, sir" and "yes ma'am." Kids attend church in smocked dresses and jon jons (okay, not mine, but most of my friends' kids!). My daughter wears BIG bows in her hair. My kids' words often have extra syllables. We live and breathe ACC basketball and bless each others' hearts.
But I grew up in Boston. And right now, I feel very far from home.
If you aren't from New England, you might not understand what a big day Marathon Day is. You probably think it's called "Patriots Day." Nope - we called it Marathon Day. Marathon Day is, honestly, the only day every year when I wish I still lived in Boston. I joke that I have sold out to the South... but not on Marathon Day. That day, my heart aches to hear someone say "wicked" and they don't mean evil. I miss the gruff, "how ya doin'" you are likely to get on the street (if you get any greeting at all). Somehow, cuss words only sound right to me when said with a Boston accent. I might even whisper a few to myself on Marathon Day.
Growing up, we didn't go to school on Marathon Monday. We went to watch the Boston Marathon. My family's spot to watch was on Capitol Hill, not far from the finish line. I loved handing out water and oranges to the runners as they passed by. It was like having fleeting contact with a celebrity. We'd stand there, holding out our offerings, hoping upon hope that a runner would come by and grunt a quick "thanks" as he poured the cup over his head, ripped out the orange with his teeth, and threw the rind on the ground. Extra points if you were able to run and pick up the rind!
The Red Sox play at home in the morning, so that you can go to the game AND walk outside to cheer on the marathoners as they pass by at the same time. The entire city is out, celebrating what it means to be from Boston. What it means to live in a city with such a wonderful history, where people live and breathe the Red Sox and Patriots football. Where you spend your summers in the cold water on the Cape, go to Cumbies to get a soda, and take the T to Government Center on the green line. Where the letter "R" just doesn't exist.
Yesterday, I was shocked when my mom called me to tell me what had happened at the race. I'd been following along but quit after the winners came in (Yay Ethiopia, by the way). I cried when I saw the photos of the finish line and couldn't bring myself to watch any of the videos.
And while the bombings will certainly impact what Marathon Day means for Boston from now on, I've never been more proud of my city. My hometown opened its doors; hundreds of people posted that they had space for strangers to stay the night, that they would pick up those who were stranded. Restaurants served meals, telling patrons to pay only if they were able. Stories came out about onlookers who rushed IN to help instead of running away. The perseverance of the 78 year-old man who was knocked down by the explosion but got back up and finished the race. I know the spirit of a New Englander: tough as nails, intimidating perhaps, but there to lend a hand when it's needed. Loyalty is highly valued in Boston (just look at Red Sox fans).
Today I pray for my hometown. I'm homesick, wishing I were there. Not that there is anything I could do, but just to stand with my city. I pray for the family of little Martin Richard, praying for some comfort for them in their grief, that God will show up for them in an undeniable way. And for the families of those injured and killed by the explosions. I pray that God will make himself known and felt all throughout the city. May he bring peace and comfort where there appears to be no hope of it.
And I know Boston. Bostonians are like weathered old fishermen. Today will not defeat them. Marathon Day is not ruined. It's not stained. Boston will find a way to honor those who were harmed, those who served, and those who sacrificed yesterday. It will be part of the honor and spirit that is Marathon Day. Whoever did this will not win. Fear will not win. Courage, sacrifice and honor prevailed yesterday.
I love that dirty water... Boston you're my home.