I don’t recommend moving across the country. I don’t recommend doing it twice. And I definitely don’t recommend doing it twice in two years.
It’s hard to be reflective when faced with the overwhelming moving task list. But, I’d like to get something down about Boston before we leave Boston. I’m sure I’ll get back to Seattle and have all sorts of romantic feelings about the Hub, but it’s hard to channel those when I’m sitting literally in the middle of a two stacks of boxes- packed and unpacked. And, let me tell you, the unpacked boxes have a menacing look about them.
Ed’s better at lists, so I’ll let him brainstorm all the good things about living in Boston. For me, there are three distinct reasons I will have a hard time leaving. The first is Halloween, the second is (surprisingly) the roads, and the third is harder to explain, but it is intimately connected with some ancestor who braved the trek out of the familiar. I’ll try and explain Halloween; bear with me.
Meet Me in St. Louis is one of those comfort movies that I could watch and know I’ll feel better. It’s a musical with Judy Garland, so Ed –despite his best efforts—can’t quite get into it, so I haven’t seen it in a few years. It takes place at the turn of the century and captures the nostalgic romance of rich white folk in a way that only MGM could produce. The houses are huge, all classes of folk seem to intermingle well enough, and the food is always homemade, setting the background to lovely unselfconscious family gatherings. While I’m smart enough to know that such an atmosphere is contrived, I was impressionable enough when I watched it for the first time that the mood of the film somehow found its way into my “home” ideals- you know those semi-conscious images and moods we associate with “home.”
Halloween is part of the film’s atmosphere. It’s the best kind of Halloween; everyone dresses up and the children—those under 10—are out about on their own AT NIGHT (because it’s safe and because they don’t have the burden of being raise in today’s world where every moment must be either supervised or planned) making bonfires and figuring out ways to really get scared. Like knocking on the door of some dark house owned by the neighborhood curmudgeon. And the weather is clearly Autumn. The kind of Autumn we know it should be. Crisp without being cold, and colorful.
Boston Halloweens feel like the Meet Me in St. Louis Halloween. For the last two years, we’ve dressed Jack up and walked all of the three blocks around our neighborhood to trick or treat. This takes nearly two hours. Nearly every house is decorated to the nines with jack-o-lanterns, skulls, tombstones, etc. And, all the kids come out. It was not unusual for Jack and me to wait for 10 other kids before getting to the door. Many of the homeowners have been in the neighborhood as long as our landlord—who was born and raised in the same house he owns today (where we live on the first floor). So, there’s this familiarity about the neighborhood, even if it’s your first walk for treats. We’d run into kids and parents we hadn’t seen since the last hot, humid day in August when everyone is outside looking to cool off and talk about how nice the weather is-how crazy it is that it is still 70 degrees so late in the year. Did I mention the colors? Before the sun goes down, 95% of the trees are still holding onto their rich ruby, terra cotta, and yellow leaves, giving the entire city a deep glow of warmth which follows every toddler home to sort out their candy.
Like the family in Meet Me in St. Louis, Boston is unselfconscious yet proud. Most homes decorate every holiday. Lights are up at Christmas, jack-o-lanterns are lit at Halloween, and flags come out on the 4th of July, no matter what your political point of view. I don’t know if it’s because the neighborhoods distinct with class or race or culture are right around the corner from another that causes a general comfort for anyone (despite a subtle if present racism), or if it’s the fact that tradition has had a lot longer to establish itself, but I wonder if future Halloweens can ever live up to the ideal realized here in Boston.