When I was nine years old, my family traveled to Framingham, Massachusetts to visit my uncle and meet his soon-to-be wife. Now, if you look at Framingham on a map, you see it’s just outside of Boston. And I have to tell you, just typing that name makes me smile.
Boston has been in the news a lot lately, and rightly so. But that’s not what’s on my mind. Seeing the horror in that city, the heroism of its people, the dedication of its protectors, it’s made me think about dreams and how they change.
See, when I was nine, I fell smack dab in love with Boston. I thought it had to be the most awesome place on the planet. I became a lifelong Red Sox fan on that trip after I was introduced to the Green Monster and watched Yaz play one of his last major league games at Fenway Park. A history buff from an early age, I could not take in enough of that city. The Old North Church, Bunker and Breeds Hills, the Harbor, the Constitution, the Tea Party boat, Copp’s Hill Burying Ground… I had a flickering love of history before that trip. After, it was a full-fledged love affair that was second only to my love of reading and writing. (It drove me to go back to school after I graduated college to tack on a degree in history.)
All I knew in fifth grade was that I wanted to get back to Boston. So I hit upon a plan. That was where I would go to college. I set my sights on Boston University, and I never looked back. In junior high, I was already writing to ask for information. I had a huge poster of the Boston skyline hanging over my bed. My Aunt Shirley bought me a BU sweatshirt. A friend bought me a BU t-shirt. I proudly wore the Red Sox jacket my dad bought me pretty much every day. By eleventh grade, I had the application already filled out on my desk, ready to go. I was in love with a city I’d seen one time. I had it mapped out: move to Boston, study psychology, become an experimental psychologist (that one makes no sense to me now)…
And then it happened… My junior year, I stumbled into a creative writing class. Mrs. Simons was the first person to look at me and say, “You’re good at this.” I’d been writing my whole life, but I honestly thought everybody wrote stories. That was the first time it occurred to me that this wasn’t “normal” for the rest of the world. She sat me down one day and told me she wanted me to look at her alma mater, a private women’s college in Decatur, Georgia, Agnes Scott. Okay. Sure. Whatever. But Boston was my dream.
Until I went to Decatur at her invitation. Something in me said this was it. Because at the same time, God was stirring the writing thing in me. When Mrs. Cook asked me to be in AP English (a whole other story), every dream I’d had since age 9 changed. Almost overnight. God birthed a new thing.
If you know my testimony, you know God had other plans that are a story for another time. Plans that were sweeter than any I’d ever dreamed, though if He’d have clued me in ahead of time, I’d have pitched a rip roaring hissy fit. He allowed me to come to the realization about Boston slowly, on my own, so that when I left that little girl dream behind, it wasn’t something I mourned but something I looked back on and smiled.
I’d still like to go back to Boston someday, just to visit. And the little girl in my aches for the city I once loved enough to want to call home. As I watched the news last week, I was reminded of how dreams change and how God has a better plan for us. And I was a little bit glad that I never did get to live there, because then this would have been personal, and my prayers would have been selfish.
Some dreams are forever. Some dreams change. Sometimes gradually, like mine. Sometimes in a flash, like the people standing at the finish line of the marathon. What never fails to amaze me is, either way, God’s got something better. It may not seem like it, but He’s God. And if I never learn anything else, I’ve learned this: He is always good.
In case you hadn’t read it, Neil Diamond is donating the sales of “Sweet Caroline” this week to One Fund Boston.