Dateline: March 9, 1997. Twenty years ago today. A Sunday. I remember sitting in my then boyfriend's first grown-up apartment on the Allston-Brighton line and reading the Boston Globe. On the front page was this profile piece about the socio-economic hardships of several families in a rural and unfamiliar-to-me part of the state. That story stood out to me, so much so that I read it twice in one sitting. In part, it was memorable because of the 11-year-old's name—Chevy Van Pickup--but more so it was because I wanted to believe that, beyond the drama and the tragedy and the bad influences and bad decisions, there was a shred of hope for this kid. His story stayed with me for years.
Fast forward seven years: February 2004. I'm in grad school at Boston University studying investigative journalism with two ace reporters from the Globe. My semester-long assignment: investigate. And so I do. My mind goes right to the story about Chevy. I do some quick math and realize he's nearly 18. Close to aging out of the foster care system. I'm hopeful. I visit the town hall and district courthouse. I speak with social workers, bailiffs, and football coaches. I pour through archives of the small-town newspaper and feed dimes to an ancient photocopier. Eventually, I find him. Locked up for stealing a pickup truck. A Chevy, of course. I write him a letter and explain my position. He writes me back. We meet during visiting hours and I scribble notes. He’s polite and open. We exchange more letters throughout the semester and I'm thisclose to submitting a front-page follow-up story to the Globe--and then he asks me not to. To spare his family's name, even though nobody else has. I oblige, but still the story stays with me.
Fast forward 10 more years: March 9, 2014. A Sunday. I'm having brunch on a first date and it's going well. We exchange all the usual questions. When he mentions his hometown name and jokes, "They let a few of us out," I mention that I've been there and tell him about Chevy (or "Truck" as he’d taken to being called). I tell him about my visits to the courthouse and the correctional facility, the good foster mom and the bad foster mom, his promising athleticism, the bite that landed him in the hospital before jail. He fills in other details on the family that predate the Globe story. News travels fast in small towns. My date tells me how he and his stepfather used to joke about the frequency with which the Pickup family's name would make it into the police log. I recall a quote from the story, "I will try not to get in trouble, but I know I will."
And today, three years after that quirky first date conversation: I'm married that man who invited me out for omelets and mimosas. The one who once called this area of the state home. The journalist in me still thinks about the Chevy Van Pickup story as "the one that got away." But the more introspective side of me that believes in (and swears by, and has more evidence than she knows what to do with) the law of attraction, knows there was a bigger reason why that particular story on that particular day in that particular town reeled me in like no other. Coincidence or cosmic intervention, everything really is connected.