My Aunt Lorraine was in her 50s when she and her husband decided to take a road trip across the country. It was a long time ago and I don’t remember their exact route, but when she returned home I asked, “Of all the places you’ve been, what was your favorite?” And she said, over coffee at her kitchen table, “Stoughton. There’s no place like Stoughton.”
I laughed at her. “You’re kidding, right? Stoughton, Lorraine? Really?”
“Really,” she said.
I knew, of course, that she didn’t mean just Stoughton, the 16 square miles of land that make up the town where she lived. She meant Stoughton in a broader sense -- Stoughton, where her family lived. Stoughton, only a car ride to where she vacationed. Stoughton, home base, a stone’s throw from anywhere her car took her. Stoughton meant Boston, Salem, Lexington, the Berkshires, Cape Cod, Magnolia, Crane Beach, Nauset Light, Plymouth Rock, Nantasket Beach. Stoughton meant all the beauty and history and nature and fun that people travel from all over the world to experience. Stoughton meant everything that exists right here in our own backyards.
I was at Symphony Hall last month and I thought about Lorraine and how she would have embraced this night, how she would have loved being in this place of beauty. All of us who live in and around Boston have this magnificent concert hall, the most celebrated in all of the United States, just down the road from us, a car ride, a train trip away.
Yet how many have never set foot in this building?
Kristin Chenoweth, the singer/actress best known for originating the role of Glinda the Good Witch in “Wicked,” performed with only a piano player for 90 minutes, part of the Celebrity Series of Boston. She sang. She told stories. She mesmerized. The Celebrity Series of Boston has been around for decades, and yet I learned about it only a few years ago? Why is this? Why didn’t I know about this eclectic mix of talent -- satirists, pianists, vocalists, playwrights, and journalists -- who perform, sometimes at Symphony Hall, sometimes at Jordan Hall, sometimes in theaters.
When I’m on vacation, I research places to go and artists to see. I take trains and buses and call cabs and stand in line to buy tickets for theater, for comedy, for concerts. I visit museums. I visit botanical gardens. And churches. And monuments. And cemeteries. And libraries. I have tea in tiny places. Nothing deters me. Not price. Not distance. Not the weather.
But when I’m home, I’m all excuses. It’s too cold. It’s too hot. It’s too far. I’m too tired. It’s too expensive. Is it really worth it? And where will I park?
I don’t go to the Museum of Fine Arts because I don’t want to pay to park? This is nuts. What does it cost to drive to New York for the weekend to visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art? What does it cost to fly to Paris to see the Louvre?
We have the Louvre right here in our own backyard. We have it all.
The Freedom Trail. The Tea Party Ship. Old North Church. Boston Public Garden. The Swan Boats. The North End. Faneuil Hall. The Kennedy Library. Boston Public Library. Fenway Park. The Charles River. Symphony Hall. Harvard Yard. We have the new Seaport District, the Rose Kennedy Greenway, Cheers, of television fame, and the Union Oyster House, of historic fame. Plus we have Cape Cod and Tanglewood and Sturbridge and Plymouth and Quincy, more sites to see than we have days to see them.
But we don’t. Because we live here. Because we think someplace else is better.
This summer I’m going to be a tourist. I’m hopping on an Old Town Trolley and starting from there. I’m going to explore my city the way my cousin did when she flew in from California last week. I’m going to the Museum of African American history in Boston and the Museum of World War II in Natick, and I’m going back to Symphony Hall. I am going to keep my eyes open to all the history and beauty that is right in front of me. And the frosting on the cake will be the lobster roll I get at Sullivan’s at Castle Island, at the end of each adventure, because nowhere in the city is there a better one.Beverly Beckham’s column appears every two weeks. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.