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Once I was on the Charles River Esplanade and listened to the Boston Pops on the Fourth of July.
From 1972 - 1977, my husband and I lived at Northeastern University in Boston, between Symphony Hall and the Museum of Fine Arts. Sounds classy, right? However, at the time, it was a ratty mix of student and senior citizen apartments, with a few ladies of the evening scattered around.
Our last summer there, on the spur of the moment, about 1 hour before show time, we grabbed a sheet and jumped on the subway to ride a few stops to Copley Square. Then we strolled over to the Charles River and started walking towards to band shell.
About 200 yards from the band shell, the crowd on the sidewalk stopped moving. We were packed on the sidewalk, and everyone else was packed on the grass -- they had probably been there since early afternoon. We couldn't move in any direction. It was like being packed into a subway train.
"I can't stand here for 2 hours!", I whined, realizing for the first time that I'm slightly claustrophobic.
My husband looked at me incredulously. "Just _where_ are you planning on going? There are people everywhere."
"I know that, but I can't stand here, packed in like a sardine. We can, ah, ah, squirm between the people sitting down and get away from here and back on the streets."
"But we just got here!"
"I know, and I'm leaving."
So I led the way, jumping from one tiny spot to the next while avoiding the glares of the early settlers. About halfway across the grass, I paused, trying to see the next tiny spot, when one of the settlers spoke.
"Are you looking for a place to sit?"
"Well, not really, well, sort of. We got jammed in on the sidewalk and I had to get out of that pack."
"Friends of ours aren't coming. Would you like to sit in their chairs?"
"Ah, why ah, thanks a lot! That's wonderful," I stammered.
So we settled in for the concert. We offered to stand in line and buy our saviors drinks. But they had brought their own. The only line they needed to stand in was for the porta-potties, and we couldn't help them there...
It was a wonderful concert. And the finale was spectacular with the symphony orchestra playing "The 1812 Overture" while the Beacon Hill church bells peeled, the National Guard artillery fired blank rounds from the other side of the river, and fireworks filled the sky.
But what I remember most was the kindness of those strangers.
Copyright 2000 by Kathryn Eike Dudding. All Rights Reserved.