Four months ago, my wife and I realized a years’-long dream to relocate to New England from our beloved home state of California where I’ve lived essentially all my life, and my wife, since her emigration from Romania some twenty years ago.
I was fortunate enough to grow up and live in some of the finest ZIP codes along Northern and Southern California’s coastal paradise towns, yet I’ve had a love affair with Boston since my first visit in 2009 — the history; education; the culture; the European-ness — and my wife and I can’t even count the numerous reasons we’ve wanted to “try some place new” despite our unbridled love for SoCal, not to mention my roots back in idyllic Marin County just north of San Francisco.
But it was last summer’s fires that catalyzed our immediate intent to quit California, a decision made all the more urgent when we received the miraculous news that our first baby was on his way.
As I said to my wife during those first horrific days of smoke-filled skies in August 2020, just days before our five-year wedding anniversary, I was damned if I’d raise our baby in a place where fire smoke would blot out the sun for days or weeks on end every year henceforth. And, I argued, it was probabilistically almost certain, based on historic trends, that next summer — i.e., now — would be at least as bad, if not even worse. So of course we had to move.
After all, no rational person today would subject a baby to tobacco smoke; so we certainly weren’t going to subject ours to wildfire smoke year after year. In fact, tobacco smoke may be less harmful; I don’t know.
As it turned out, the sun glowed orange from fire smoke for seven weeks last summer, the AQI (air quality index, a measurement of the quantity, in parts per million, of particulate matter smaller than 2.5 microns in size, so-called PM2.5) in the 100–300 range. Anything over 50 is moderate, and anything over 100 is unhealthy.