I will never forget my first trip to Boston, years before I ever even thought I would leave NYC. Yet there I was at the end of the E line — Heath Street — in the mid-2000s. It was late, and I heard the locks click behind us as the bar closed for the night. As I walked to the Green Line station just ahead, my friends quickly told told me it was closed. It was after midnight.
Closed? At midnight? As a native New Yorker this concept was foreign to me (and, to be honest, I still don’t understand it). But it was only upon moving to Boston — and having a kid — that I realized the impact of “needing” a car.
There are so many amazing things to do in and around Boston, and it is more than possible to get by without a car. If the T won’t take you, try a bus, a walk, or the commuter rail. Got your sights set far beyond Boston? Try Amtrak or even a boat! There are ways to be found.
But as a parent? Well, getting around without a car and with a child is something else.
I was always one to sprint down a T platform, run for the bus (even in heels), and walk for miles — when I was solo. But now, pushing a stroller and working the ins and outs of the T and bus stations, one feels fortunate to find one with working elevators and accommodations. The reality of scheduling and planning that goes into an outing — let alone the commute itself — has taken on a different meaning and toll. Much more meaning when you recognize this is life for many who rely on these systems full time in every capacity.
And outings outside of the city? Well, the farms aren’t exactly within a stone’s throw. Or what about our many friends who move to the suburbs? The reality of visits with them includes coordinating carseats and carpooling.
Our world has grown smaller still with the winters. As we wait in the cold at the bus stop, wondering when the bus will arrive, I debate what will melt down first — the snow, or my toddler?
But, there is always a silver lining. One plus side of staying put is creativity. Dance parties and lots of cooking. Exploring what’s in our neighborhood and learning to get outdoors no matter what. Finding joy in simply running in an empty soccer field. Regular visits to our local park. Watching the wind on the river or the trains passing by. And, if all else fails, we always have bubbles on deck.
Plus, we’ve been the benefactors of great kindness from friends. So much gratitude to all my mom friends (and more) along the way. Those who have shown up and driven round trip to make sure we make it to Halloween events outside the city. Who have held my toddler as I loaded and fit her car seat into their car so our kids can enjoy the farm together. To the moms who have said, “I’ll pick you up at the train station.” Or who simply said, “Don’t even worry about it. We’ll come to you.”
The reality is, I hope to have a car soon. Although I’m not ready to take on the debt that comes along with it — the parking, the insurance, the gas, the taxes, so on and so forth. A payment, a liability, and a depreciation as soon as you’ve made the purchase. But my, oh my, the freedom! The privilege to move on one’s own time — trips unplanned and adventures that await.
Oh the memories we would make. We will make. But until then, you’ll find us living the car-free life of an city family — and we’re making the most of it.