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When I was younger, Christmas and Easter (or at least one of the two) would be spent driving into to Boston. The seemingly endless amount of kids dressed in clip-on ties and pastel dresses ran through the little narrow house. Shiny white patent-leather shoes would be immediately scuffed by games of tag or hide and seek.

The kitchen would be filled floor-to-ceiling with Boston accents and swirls of cigarette smoke, bursts of laughter, the smell of some type of roast or pots of sauce drifting from the oven. As the world revolved around us, we were protected behind the latticework of the big wrap-around porch. Our only problem was if the ball got launched over the fence of the backyard, or we ran out of our signature family party drink – a block of sherbert with a bottle of ginger ale glugged over the top creating a green-orange pastel foam.

At night, we would climb back into the car to head home, I’d drift off to a semi-sleep, warm under my jacket, and as we’d snake our way along the skyline of Boston on Storrow Drive, my personal film reel would begin.

The parkway hugs downtown Boston on the banks of the river. Looking out onto the Charles, you can’t help but fall in love with New England. In the foreground, a lush, beautiful green garden in the summer with runners and bikers moving along the water’s edge. Classic white sailboats float in packs with the wind on the river. At night, those apartments that look out over the road and the gorgeous view of the river – the ones on the edge of the commotion and the hustle, seem to glow in the moonlight.

I’d look up into their windows. To me, they were a flickering film strip. To their inhabitants, we weren’t even headlights – just a shine off the roof of our car. I hid, nestled the private darkness looking up at the big city’s secrets. If there was no traffic, they’d flash by. Through one on a top floor, a gorgeous tin ceiling glimmering above a chandelier. In another, a party – couples dancing in the kitchen. Then, a flicker of a fully glassed-in rooftop, glowing orange with warmth against the cold lights of the city – a library stacked with deep green and blue bindings graced the back wall – and I immediately claimed that one as my favorite.

We’d keep driving past Storrow and I’d grab my book again because soon those stupid signs would appear telling me that if I lived right there, I’d be home now and I always wish I did because the rest of the ride was pretty boring and definitely not full of beautiful windows.

Every time we took the ride, I’d look up into those real-life picture frames and think of what It’d be like to live there in an apartment – and I’d picture myself older and confident and walking down the city streets like I was a true Bostonian “city-girl,” but then we’d drive further north and the trees would clear the smog and the mountains and lakes and ocean would call and I’d forget Boston for awhile, until the next time we’d drive to Brighton, and I’d oddly still feel at home.

Today I walk the streets of my new city, and although I don’t live in an apartment overlooking the Arno, I still am the same girl that used to hide in the shadows while looking in on other people’s lives. In Florence at night, the big wooden windows reveal intricately frescoed ceilings and venetian glass chandeliers. I look up at them and dream of myself living under those beautiful paintings someday. For right now, I’m just glad I still have my Storrow Drive obsession satiated – and my apologies to all those that think I’m just a bit creepy. It is just incredible how much we miss if we forget to look up.

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