Goodbye 250

I get on the bus and swipe my Charlie Card, my ticket to discounted rides for the last ten and a half years. The bus driver nods as I say hello. There is room to sit down, but I stand. Central Square is a 12-minute walk from my house, but the bus is a wonderful back up when I’m running late. Or when it’s hot. Or when it’s cold. Or just because it’s there and it’s morning, and in the morning I’m a slow mover.

As I step to the side to hold onto a bar, I see that my bus friend is there. Bus friends are those special people that become a part of you and that cynics tell you are not your real friends, but you know better. This particular ‘friend’  works at Simmons College and we have seen each other a couple of days a week ever since I moved to Cambridge. We exchange greetings and I compliment her on a new hair cut. She laughs. It’s not the cut she says – it’s the glasses. “Ever since I got new glasses I’ve had compliments on my hair!” I laugh and say whatever it is, it’s a good look. We older women need each other. We know that our youth is gone. We know that our bodies and our faces bear the marks of life, sometimes well-lived, and sometimes just lived. We know that worship and attention go to the young, and so whatever we can give to each other, we give with abandon.

I get off at Central Square and walk down the steps to the subway. I do all these things without even thinking. They are second nature. I am now the person that strangers in the city approach – I earned the right to belong without even knowing I had earned it.

The subway ride is short. I know every station before we even get there. I know the pictures that form the tiles at Kendall/MIT. I know the coming out of the darkness and into the light of Charles MGH, the Charles River – beautiful, no matter the season. I know the sailboats on the river, their sails identifying the schools or organizations to whom they belong. I know the view of Boston from the subway. The subway moves on, going underground again to stop at Park Street. I get off and make my way up the stairs, into the light of Boston Common.

Park Street church, with its church bells that ring every day at noon, stands solid in front of me. Suffolk University School of Law is just down Tremont Street on the right. The gold-domed Statehouse stands tall up the hill to my left.

An ambulance bears down on the street, disrupting the early morning calm, as if reminding all of us that this is a city, and cities are never really still.

I begin to walk up Tremont Street, realizing that this city has become a part of me without me even realizing it. The beauty of the city with its walkability, its green spaces and its old charm is a part of me. The ugly of the city with some of its past abuses is now in my conscience. The good that I have been honored to be a part of through my job, watching community health centers and hospitals work with those most in need, is on my shoulders and in my body.  I know the names of some of the homeless. I know people who serve at the restaurants around me. I know the doormen at the Omni Parker Hotel. My husband would tell you that I know the manager of TJ Maxx, but I would quickly refute him.

From Tremont, I turn right at the Omni Parker, famous for Parker House Rolls and Boston Cream Pie, and continue down School Street, soon turning left onto Washington Street. I stop in front of the revolving doors of 250 Washington Street and take in the moment. I look at it hard. I entered these doors to work, first as consultant and then as full-time employee, in April of 2008. I have never stayed at a workplace for so long. Until this job, I never had to work through staying when the work gets mundane. I never had to work through bureaucracy and the patience it produces. I never fought so hard for programs to serve communities that I love as I did in this job. I never had the honor of working with community members who fight every day for their communities to get what they need. I have never laughed so hard or so much with colleagues. I have never shared myself the way I have with these colleagues, many who are now friends. I have never fought so hard, worked so hard, or felt so much joy with the results as I have these past ten years. It has been hard work and it has been such a privilege. I leave knowing what it is to quietly and persistently fight for what you love. We have been able to do work in the foreign-born Muslim community that I never thought possible. We now have a 5-year grant with a focus on women’s health in the Asian, Black, and foreign-born Muslim communities. I’ve learned the joy and strength that comes from fighting hard to serve those you love.

Somehow along the way during these ten years I have become a part of something bigger than myself and I have become from somewhere. It happened without a fight or a big bang. Instead, daily putting one step in front of the other I became a part of this city and her people, and she became a part of me.

And today is my last work day. The last day that I sit in my cubicle, answer emails from my official email account, and answer the phone in my official capacity. Soon I will leave Boston and Cambridge. A plane will take me thousands of miles away to a small apartment on the other side of the world. I will leave a place I love to go to a place I have begun to love. Who is so fortunate? I ask myself this question every day. 

And when people ask me where I’m from, I will say with some pride, and no hesitation “I’m from Boston.” Those are sweet words indeed. 

24 thoughts on “Goodbye 250

  1. I love this. I love that you take the time to recognise and honour the small moments, the little pieces of “ordinbary” that make up a life. You are fortunate indeed, to have a place to love so well, and be from, and another place to love on your near horizon.

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  2. I love Boston. It’s the only city I’ve ever had the opportunity of calling home, and I’ve been living in it for nearly 25 years — and before that, only 15-20 minutes North of it. One thing that I hate about Boston is how transient it is. It pulls in so many people that I have the opportunity of forming bonds with whom I’d never know were the place more stable & had less turnover; it also says “farewell” to so many of those people, and I’m never comfortable with this tradeoff.

    I was thinking yesterday about these jet-setting cosmopolitan “everywheres” (if I need to name them) who have no roots (they feel, in so many ways, like the diaspora of those who refuse to land), who cannot take a river into their interior without it being merely a boutique experience (any such interiorization is a tether, after all, a kind of marriage), whose sense of place is simply an inventory of habits and judgments shared by the rootless. There is something about moving around all the time that means one has no where, no place. This has benefits — one is removed from the bigotries and prejudices that are always part of local identity, and can more easily “zoom out”, I suppose, were one to engage in ethical self-cultivation enough to make this a valuable optic. This has costs, though — one is denied solidity, and, without a “where”, I’m not sure we can even have a “when”. Intimacy requires shared habits and rituals, and, though this can be had globally if a diaspora community anchors its way of life in something that can be picked up and dropped anywhere, even these have their origin in a time and a place, emerge from the twin angels of a history and of a land, and bear the marks of these.

    So I’m happy about your common law marriage to Boston. Thank you for this short meditation/portrait. Boston is better for having had you two, and I am, too.

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  3. So well said, Marilyn, and am so glad Boston has become a part of you. The city is all the richer for it, as are you. May the time of transition be filled with great joy and wisdom. Sorry you are going so far, but so excited for the next chapter, however long it is. Love to you and yours. Mary

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  4. A very special entry, Marilyn, to understand a day from your 10 yr. sojourn there in Boston. We are very excited with you reguarding your move.

    Karen Kay and Fred

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  5. Best wishes on your next adventure. It sounds like there will be a lot of Boston folks feeling an empty space when you leave. I am transitioning back to my home state after leaving twenty five years ago. But it’s not far from Boston so I’m good. :)

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  6. Oh my gosh, friend.
    I’m not crying, you’re crying!
    I love this so much. I love this for the belonging, I love this for the new steps. I love this for the city, the work, the heart, the people. I love this for the longevity. I love this for the change. I love this for the vulnerability, and I love this for the story. And the goodbye… I love and hate that too.
    And all that love I am passing on to you in this season.

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  7. This is beautiful, Aunt M. It’s so painful to leave a place we love…but also so wonderful to come face to face with how much we love it. Somehow the leaving makes us see it better. I’m praying for you today!

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  8. Dear, Dear Marilyn, I have never been so proud to be your Mom as in reading this. I too am shedding tears of pride and joy. I don’t even want to think how much I am going to miss having you within reach, but you go with God. I know that so you go with my blessing.

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  9. Undeniable, one can belong. It is possible. You have shown us. Soon you will become part of another community. We will all be blessed as you share this journey.

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  10. “I’m from Boston.” – only a TCK knows the significance of that statement. I have now lived in Warsaw, IN longer than I have lived in any other place. It is still hard for me to say ‘I am from Warsaw’ but I do it anyway because it’s easier than the other explanation that usually brings glazed looks . . . If I hesitate long enough, my husband or a friend usually start explaining for me – I kind of like that. ;-)

    I’ll be praying for you as you start this new chapter in your life. I hope you keep us well informed and update!!!

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  11. Dear Marilyn,  My tears began to fall as I read your blogpost. “Goodbye” has always been a hard one for me – and I am sure it is for you as well. So I just want to say this – I will be holding you and your husband up before the throne as you make this big move.  I pray that you will know His sweet presence as you wind things up there in Boston – and begin a new life in the Middle East.  May His unfailing love and attention be yours as you make the adjustment to a new life.  You have served Him well and I am sure you will do the same in the days ahead.  I hope you continue your blogging. It was so good to see you at the reunion – the fellowship was so enriching to me. So God bless you and keep you.

    In His great love,\

    Grandma Gracie Pittman

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