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Lifetime of memories were made in Boston

I lived in Billerica, but grew up in Boston.

I grew up in a town approximately 20 miles outside of Boston. Far enough away that going to Boston was not a frequent experience, but each time I went “to or through” it was memorable.

My very first memory of going to Boston, I was very young. I barely remember any details about it except I know my mother and I went in with my aunt “Dolly” so she could buy a dress. I remember being very dressed up and sitting in a fancy gilt chair in a very fancy room while beautiful ladies came out one by one showing my aunt dresses. That is all I remember. I must have been about 5 years old at the time.

Boston for me was going to Jordan Marsh at Christmas time to see “Santa Clause” and the “Enchanted Village,” and then having dinner with “Santa and Miss Holly” afterward; I remember looking in the store windows and seeing how beautifully they were decorated. I remember going to see the “Ice Capades” with my grandparents and meeting Olympic champion Janet Lynne, and to Brighams for Ice Cream. For many years, the first sign of spring was my grandparents taking me to the Boston Common to ride on the Swan Boats the first day they were open. As always, we would get in to Boston by taking the train from the North Billerica Train Station.

The Boston and Maine train itself was a magical experience for a young child under the age of 10 in the 1970s. The conductor would smile and give me a lollypop. He seemed to know my grandfather, which made him a celebrity in my book. I would hold tight to my grandparents’ hands as we boarded the train and made our journey to North Station, and the Boston Garden. I can still smell the smells and feel the crowds around me. It was scary and exciting and wonderful! Boston was always special. Going to Boston was a reward.

As I grew up, there were various field trips that included the State House where I met Govs. Michael Dukakis and Edward King, seeing the USS Constitution and discovered the wonders of “Quincy Market” and “Faneuil Hall.”

Whenever we would drive through Boston, for as long as I can remember, it was a race for who could see the Bunker Hill monument and the old North Church first. “Don’t shoot until you see the whites of their eyes” and “One if by land, two if by sea and I on the opposite shore shall be” were repeated without fail in the family car each and every time we drove past. Of course, there was also, “if you lived here, you’d be home now.”

In my teen years there were trips to Harvard Square. I remember “Newberry Comics” before it was a chain. I clearly remember “Major Tom” by David Bowie playing in the background (weird how these things stay in your mind). I bought a camouflage jacket from a Vietnam Vet at the Army Navy store and felt very punk and anti-establishment.

I have appreciated the incredible cultural offerings of the city. My husband and I have seen “Into the Woods,” “Phantom of the Opera” (three times) and “Les Miserables” (twice). In 1993 my brothers and I were able to send our parents on a dream date for their anniversary to see “Forever Plaid” and to have dinner at “Top of the Hub,” coincidentally the year before my mother was diagnosed with lung cancer. It was the last opportunity they had for a night out like this, and it was in Boston.

It was also where my mother was one of the last in-patients at Dana Farber and where I had successful surgery at Brigham and Women’s and treatment at Dana Farber for Breast Cancer.

So, even though I never lived there, Boston is forever in my heart. I am grieving with and praying for the people of Boston. I admire their strength and will be there next year when they hold the marathon to celebrate their victory over atrocity.

Yes, I lived in Billerica, but I grew up in Boston.

Robyn Payson lives in Rindge.

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