Boston Pride: Kids, Be Brave

Among the many reasons my family marched in Saturday’s Boston Pride Parade is the following interaction with my son:

Copley Square, staging for parade (Boston Pride 2013) © Martha Nichols

Copley Square, staging for parade (Boston Pride 2013) © Martha Nichols

“Are you ready to go to the parade?” I asked that morning.

He didn’t smile. He stared up at me from a nest of blankets on the floor. “I’m worried.”

“Why?”

“I’m worried there won’t be a Sunday.”

His voice trembled. My eleven-year-old kept looking at me, waiting for what I would say. And because we’d had a similar conversation the week before, I knew he wasn’t concerned about the opinions of other kids or parents—or anything that had to do with gay identity. He was scared there would be another bombing.

This is the life we’re living now. And yet, marching in the parade turned out to be a joyful event for us, one that emphasized the sheer vibrancy and tenacity of life.

My son’s Quaker school has marched in the Pride parade for years. He marched last June, celebrating Cambridge Friends School’s 50th anniversary, and he loved it. The CFS contingent usually includes many of his teachers, the Head of the School, gay and straight parents, and a shifting coterie of dancing kids waving rainbow flags.

Saturday morning, I told my son I understood why he was worried. I told him I was, too, but that we couldn’t let it stop us. Then the terrorists would win.

“But what if it happens again? Wouldn’t they do it where all the kids are?”

“That’s what ‘Boston Strong’ means,” I said.

“I know.”

“This is a day about freedom to be who you want to be.”

“But what if it happens again? Wouldn’t they do it where all the kids are?”

Right then, I wanted to hug him close and never let go. But he’s no longer a small child, and his fears are serious fears. A simple hug is not enough.

“I’ll keep watch over you,” I said, “I’ll hold your hand the entire time, if you want me to.”

He nodded cautiously.

“Don’t you know that I’d throw my body in front of yours to protect you?”

“But that’s what I mean!” he cried. “It’s scary.”

I won’t claim that my words eased his fears. I’m no psychological wizard. My tween acts snarky at times, wanting nothing to do with my well-intentioned lectures. Still, we kept talking. I emphasized that sometimes bravery is called for, even if you’re scared—that there are a zillion things we can’t control in this life.

And finally, my worried boy agreed to go.

At the parade, he didn’t need to hold my hand. He raced ahead with the other kids, distributing CFS bracelets in rainbow colors to children and parents along the way. Meanwhile, my husband and I marched with the adults, grinning, singing “This Little Light of Mine”—marveling at how big the cheering crowd was this year.

Boston Pride 2013, South End © Martha Nichols

Boston Pride 2013, South End © Martha Nichols

I snapped photos with my iPhone all along the route (some appear here and in the slideshow below), especially of areas of Boylston Street that had been closed after the bombing and the memorial messages there that flutter with new color.

The Boston Globe’s coverage of the parade in its Sunday edition was limited to the Metro section, focusing on Jason Collins, formerly of the Boston Celtics and the first NBA player to come out as gay. Collins literally walked tall in Joe Kennedy’s contingent.

This was great, as were the touching odes to Tom Menino along the parade route, many in the crowd waving yellow “Thank you, Mayor Menino” signs.

But I don’t think Collins “stole the show,” as the Globe article puts it. What was truly remarkable about this parade, barely two months after bombs went off downtown at another beloved Boston public event, is that the streets were packed with people, young and old, whether or not they were cheering the marchers on.

“Barely two months after bombs went off downtown, the streets were packed with people”

Two summers ago, my family stayed in Istanbul in a short-term apartment down one of the snaking streets off Taksim Square. That week was also the lead up to the gay pride parade in Istanbul. I loved the mix of old and new, women in head scarves and stilettos, street vendors and outdoor cafes and a rock festival in Gezi Park—where the current protests are now going on.

Taksim is urban and gritty, but it’s a place where I came away believing that people of many faiths and ideologies could coexist. “It is a symbol of modernity,” Michael Kimmelman notes in his recent New York Times feature about the protests in Turkey. He concludes:

“The conflict over public space is always about control versus freedom, segregation versus diversity. What’s at stake is more than a square. It’s the soul of a nation.”

Yes, in Turkey and here—and every place. Boston Pride 2013 reclaimed Copley Square, where the parade route began and near the site of the bombings, as a public space. As my family walked those much-loved streets, freedom seemed both real and intangible. We recreate it again and again, in our hearts and in our neighborhoods.

After the parade, my family headed for the Park Street subway stop, passing tours with guides in colonial dress outside the Granary Burying Ground. That’s Boston, too. The Red Sox played the Angels at Fenway Park Saturday afternoon (the Sox lost). That’s Boston, too. The many contingents of local politicians in the parade, including various candidates for mayor as Menino passes the torch—definitely Boston.

But most of all, I loved watching my son run up the street toward the State House, two rainbow flags wiggling in his pockets. His continuing fears animated him, I think. But still, he was on fire. In that moment, he knew who he was.

Memorial, Boston Pride 2013 © Martha Nichols

Memorial, Boston Pride 2013 © Martha Nichols


Article links:

More Pictures from Boston Pride 2013:

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2 thoughts on “Boston Pride: Kids, Be Brave

  1. Loved this, Martha. Sounds to me like you said all the right things. My kids also went to CFS, and this reminded me of all that was beautiful and generous about the place. Not to mention what’s beautiful and generous — and resilient — about this city.

  2. Thanks, Kim. You’re right about the special spirit of CFS, and going to this year’s parade felt like a turning point for us.

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