For Boston With Love, Bad Language Included

My dad grew up in Southie. If you aren’t from Boston, aren’t from Massachusetts, that has different meaning for you. To me, it means afternoons spent at my grandmother’s house, listening to white boys wearing gold chains pass on the sidewalk outside, trying to understand what they said. It means going to the playground with your grandmother as a ten-year-old, looking at the five-year-olds playing there, and realizing that any one of them could take you.

It means being young and far away from home  and homesick. Not for any one person or place, exactly, but for a sense of the familiar. And then hearing that accent — that godawful, wonderful accent — spoken on the Tube by some punk, loud-mouthed Boston kid in jeans and a Celtics t-shirt — and smiling for the rest of the day.

It means having absolutely no interest in sports, not even in the Red Sox (okay, maybe the Red Sox) but hating New York on principle.

It means taking the train into Boston as a teen with your friends and realizing that all the stuff you read about in history books, the stuff that made your country, happened HERE, and that the founding fathers were pretty bad-assed after all.

It means that your husband — who can navigate anywhere in the world — will sometimes turn to you, the geographically impaired, after following a maze of one way streets to say in frustration “Where the hell ARE we?” and you can actually tell him.

It means driving through a blizzard at 65 mph with cars passing you on both sides. It means drinking Dunkin Donuts iced coffee instead of Starbucks in the summer. It means understanding that when Paul Revere did his midnight ride, he wasn’t shouting “The British are coming” so that people could hide. He was doing it so that they would stand up and  fight.

It means that you swear allegiance at an early age to a city that pretends not to give a damn about so many things, but really cares so much. A city whose heart is big enough, open enough to break for those who are grieving. And tough enough to move forward, to give the finger to whoever did this. Tough enough to say,  in that awful accent,  ‘We ain’t done here. You haven’t beaten us, asshole. You never will.”

Liz Michalski


  1. Vaughn Roycroft on April 16, 2013 at 10:48 am

    Love the Revere reference, and the overall sentiment. The blizzard driving sounds like Detroit.

    • liz on April 16, 2013 at 11:34 am

      Thanks, Vaughn. I’m still just stunned.

  2. tpamm on April 16, 2013 at 11:44 am

    Liz, a beautiful and touching piece–I felt this way about New York, my home, after 9/11–you’ve captured all of those feelings. By the way, you might want to read The Green Fields of the Mind by Bart Giamatti–a tribute to Boston and the Red Sox that, although a Yankee fan, I’ve always been touched by. Thanks so much for this–it’s been hard thinking about all of this, but you’ve helped.

    • liz on April 17, 2013 at 9:45 pm

      Thanks Pam, both for the kind words and for the recommendation. I promise to look for it. It’s hard to know what to think or what to write right now, and I’ve read at least one piece that says Boston’s spirit is essentially cliche. I disagree — we have compassion and heart, but we really will kick ass when required.

  3. Tara on April 16, 2013 at 11:53 am

    Love it Liz!! Especially the Paul Revere reference.

    • liz on April 17, 2013 at 9:42 pm

      Thank you, Tara. Hugs.

  4. Sevigne on April 17, 2013 at 8:46 am

    Heartbroken. And more determined than ever not to let the assholes believe for one second that they have crushed us. My first boyfriend in America was (is) from Boston. I have friends who went to Berklee College of Music. I spent many a summer on the Commons (and shopping in Filene’s basement). I watched the fireworks on July 4 over the Charles River and listened to the Boston Pops. I lived there in the 90s.

    I had friends in the marathon. One had just crossed the finish line when the bombs went off. Four were crossing exactly when the explosion happened. By some great miracle all survived with only minor injuries. My heart goes out to all who were less fortunate.

    • liz on April 17, 2013 at 9:42 pm

      I’m so sad but also so furious as well, Sevigne. This is MY town. It’s where my father grew up, where I had sleepovers with my grandmother and went for ice cream cones at Woolworth’s. I went into Boston for dates with boyfriends and afternoons with girlfriends. I bought my wedding dress there. How dare someone try to take that away?

      I’m glad your friends are ok, and like you, my heart is with those who are not.

  5. Jan O'Hara (Tartitude) on April 17, 2013 at 5:07 pm

    That accent is grating, but I’m so impressed with what I’m seeing on TV. There’s a fortitude and pragmatism that’s palpable to me.

    Fingers crossed the investigation is headed to an arrest soon.

    • liz on April 17, 2013 at 9:39 pm

      It’s funny, Jan — you can hear my accent, but only when I’m really tired or when I’m around childhood friends and family. Most of the time, my accent is in hiding. But the Boston accent is particularly dear to me right now.

  6. Jana Eggers on April 17, 2013 at 8:34 pm

    Liz, this is wonderful! Thanks for writing it. For those interested, here’s a link to “The Green Fields of the Mind”:

    • liz on April 17, 2013 at 9:38 pm

      Thank you, Jana. And since this is the second recommendation, it looks like I need to read this. (Perhaps while my husband watches a game.)

  7. Jeanne Frances Patterson on April 27, 2016 at 1:06 pm

    Loved this piece. The Boston area will always be my real home. The competitiveness, toughness, loyalty and intellectual chops valued there are hard to find anywhere else.

  8. zoltan1109 on April 17, 2017 at 10:03 am

    This is a beautiful and accurate depiction of Boston. It’s a wonderfully weird place for me. I’ve never lived there. I visited your grandma, I’ve been to Fenway and I’ve played basketball with the kids described in this wtiting. When I’m lucky enough to visit Boston (and surrounding towns) I always feel like I’m coming home. I don’t know if it’s my (nearly pathological) love for the Redsox or that my heritage hails form there. Perhaps it’s the fond childhood memories or the way my father’s eyes lit up when he spoke of it. I’ll never be able to put a pin on the reason. All I know is that Boston is my first and forever love.

  9. Fran McCarthy on April 16, 2018 at 7:32 pm

    What accent?

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