We watched on television the rolling rally as it headed toward our neck of the woods. Then, about 10 minutes or so before it was near us we left our houses, apartments and condominiums and streamed with dozens of neighbors toward Boylston or Tremont or Cambridge streets or over to the river to see the Red Sox in all their glory.
It was quite a scene. Everyone had on Red Sox gear. A few fans held signs: “Papi for Mayor.” Guys held their girls on their shoulders so the ladies could see over the crowd. Pieces of red, white and blue paper, designed to float as long as possible in the air, poured from confetti cannons. Near us a man, apparently having fled from Mass General in time to see the team creep by, was decked out in his hospital johnny, which was flapping over his bare backside.
Helicopters buzzed, whirred, throbbed and chopped overhead, and at least two airplanes pulled banners. The crowd blew horns, clapped and cheered. We’re in this together in our joy at our team’s success, even if we aren’t die-hard fans. Our city is cool. Our city is a winner.
And all we had to do in the area of this newspaper’s readership was to walk out the door and over a few blocks. When we live downtown, coming together is easy.
Forty-four years ago we moved back to the Boston area with our two-month-old daughter. We chose the Back Bay because we did not want to repeat the student experience that Cambridge would have offered. And I was afraid that if we moved to the suburbs I might have to shoot myself. I had never lived in a suburb, so I had no reason besides fear of homogeneity, a house sitting alone in a patch of yard, and a commute for my husband.
So the Back Bay it was, and later we bought the cheapest building we could find in downtown Boston. It happened to be a tenement on the north slope of Beacon Hill. We’ve basically been there ever since.
My husband’s mother cried. Her friends’ children were settling in places like Glen Ellyn, Winnetka or Lake Forest, where the houses sat on beautiful lawns and the schools were first-rate.
It wasn’t only my mother-in-law who questioned our choice. We took our children camping in Nickerson State Park on the Cape a couple of years later. A mother whose family camped next to us expressed her condolences that we couldn’t afford to move out of the city.
As we settled into downtown Boston we realized there were many families choosing the city over the suburbs. They were buying up neglected properties as we were and creating a home. Now everybody wants to live in the city. Were we prescient?
I doubt it. I just knew I wanted more than the isolation and conventionality that I envisioned would overcome me in the suburbs. I don’t even know if that would have been true.
But as we left our house on Saturday to walk the two blocks to see the Red Sox rolling rally pass by we said to one another once again, we are so lucky to live exactly where we do. How was it that, at such a young age, we made the right choice?
It’s a long walk, but we can make it to Fenway Park by foot. We can walk to all the other sports venues except for the Patriots, which we have to watch on TV because no way would we drive in all that traffic. All the theatres, museums, restaurants, pilates, hair and nail salons and shopping, and even physical therapy, for heaven’s sake, are within walking distance. Or we can take the T or catch a cab. Our commutes have been by foot or subway. We spend no time sitting in traffic because our car, which I claim is my husband’s car, stays in a garage 90 percent of the time. And while it hasn’t been cheap to live in the middle of the city, we have spent little money on gas, which sometimes has been expensive and during two periods in the 1970s, was unavailable. Our cars seem to last forever because they don’t get driven that much. We went without a car for a couple of years and have never had to have more than one, so the extra cost of housing, if you deduct the amount we would have spent elsewhere on transportation, isn’t as much as it might seem.
There is another feeling, though, of living in the midst of it all at a Red Sox rolling rally. It’s the sense of community. The usual things that stand for individuals don’t matter—our sex, our color, our nationality, our age, our political beliefs, our religion, our education, our job, or anything else. We all agree that Red Sox winning the World Series is pretty fantastic, and we’re in downtown Boston at the center of it all.
Downtown View is a regular column by Karen Cord Taylor who founded The Beacon Hill Times weekly newspaper in 1995 and served as its editor and publisher until late 2007. She also founded and served as editor and publisher of the Charlestown Patriot-Bridge and The Back Bay Sun weeklies. Her column appears in those newspapers as well as the Regional Review, which serves Boston’s North End. These weeklies are now owned by the Independent Newspaper Group. She is the author of “Blue Laws, Brahmins and Breakdown Lanes: An Alphabetic Guide to Boston and Bostonians” and the co-author of “The Lady Architects,” a book about three women who practiced architecture in New England and elsewhere in the early 20th century. She lives in downtown Boston and blogs at BostonColumn.com.