How My Family’s Story Follows the Green Line

When you grow up in an apartment overlooking the MBTA Green Line, with a mother who considers it a feature, not a bug, carts just might catch your eye.

This is the story of my children. Their imagination revolved around watching trains, traveling on trains, thinking about trains, playing with trains, being trains. All. Always. The trains.

Sharon Brody’s sons, Campbell and Jack, many years ago wore the MBTA Green Line trolley Halloween costumes that she had made for them to her exacting specifications. (Sharon Brody/WBUR)

Instead of getting by, my sons grew up there: Jack is now a transportation planner and Campbell is a transportation engineer.

As mother and son, we connected on many things, but the T-bond was very strong. And one thing I learned? If the universe offers you a connection with your children, adopt it. And roll with it to the end of the line. And back. And even.

Over the years, as they led wonderful independent lives and married beautiful women, our shared affection for public transit and the MBTA helped keep us close. And that’s why we were bonded and determined to come together as a trio to celebrate a milestone T that took a long time to come.

The updated MBTA Green Line route sign, including Green Line Extension stops, in a trolley taking a test drive between Lechmere and Union Square.  (Sharon Brody/WBUR)
The updated MBTA Green Line route sign, including Green Line Extension stops, in a trolley taking a test drive between Lechmere and Union Square. (Sharon Brody/WBUR)

On Monday, the Union Square branch of the Green Line extension to Somerville and Medford opens to the public. It is the first extension to the MBTA subway system to be completed since the 1980s, before Jack and Campbell were born. The long-delayed project is a big deal for the region, of course. But for us, it’s personal.


I would say that the green line, for me, is my childhood. It means looking out the window and seeing the passing trains, and cataloging in my head which trains pass.

For me, there’s never been anything better than sitting, ideally, in the front window seat of a Green Line car, and just watching the world go by. And it’s just a great place for self-reflection, to find your inner peace, and just to enjoy some really beautiful scenery. -Jack

When Jack and I were little, the three of us rode the Green Line almost everywhere we went. At Fenway. To the red line so we can get to Harvard Square. We were taking him on the Blue Line so we could go to Revere Beach. Almost any day we were free together, the three of us were probably going somewhere on the T. —Campbell


This month, to be clear, the three of us had no intention of waiting to join the opening day crowds on the Green Line extension.

Thanks to the benefits I receive as serious journalist who absolutely does not want special treatment because mumble mumble carts and children and comforting nostalgia, the MBTA has arrived. The T agreed to give us a taste of the trolley on the all-new line, weeks before the masses board.

We took a trip into the future, resonating with our past.

Sharon Brody's sons, Jack and Campbell, enjoy the view from a Green Line streetcar window, both as children and, with their mother, as adults.  (Composite image by Sharon Brody and Aimee Moon/WBUR)
Sharon Brody’s sons, Jack and Campbell, enjoy the view from a Green Line streetcar window, both as children and, with their mother, as adults. (Composite image by Sharon Brody and Aimee Moon/WBUR)

The expedition started new and shiny still under construction Lechmere Station in Cambridge. Under the close supervision of MBTA staff, our team rode on a cart bound for destiny. Or, at least, bound for Somerville.

The journey was brief. Minutes after the trolley clicked out of Cambridge, we had arrived about a mile away at the (also) gleaming new Union Square station still under construction. Then we retraced our steps.

For some people, this may seem disappointing. We are not those people.

On the excursion, we marveled at our lucky, iconic views – the Boston skyline! The Tobin Bridge! The Bunker Hill Monument! The Zakim Bridge! All those MBTA commuter trains! — and the newness of the whole experience. The three of us huddled in the Type 7 wagon, in the front seats just behind the driver, just like in the old days. Except this time no one asked me for Cheerios in a cup.


My brain has already seen 100% of the current MBTA subway system through the front window of a train. And [riding the Green Line Extension is] the first time I see with my own eyes a new and better rail. For the T, it is the first step to say that it is possible. It is something that can be done. —Campbell

[The extension] really symbolizes a lot of hope and progress, and believing that things can change for the better, even when there are significant obstacles in your way. And we’re really excited to go out there and experience the new stations and experience the new route and do it as a family, together – just like we used to ride on rides when we were little.. It’s as perfect as it gets. -Jack


View through the front window of the MBTA trolley on the Green Line Extension during a test drive from Lechmere to Union Square.  (Sharon Brody/WBUR)
View through the front window of the MBTA trolley on the Green Line Extension during a test drive from Lechmere to Union Square. (Sharon Brody/WBUR)

As we ride the Green Line extension on the Somerville branch, I relish the moment; the joy of my sons; our fellowship. I also go back to my toddlers, wondering about the facts of the MBTA card. And I think of how a very young Jack used to discuss with us his own Green Line model classification system, dividing rolling stock into categories that he called “up wheels” and “low wheels” and “lower wheels with sliding doors”. Because why not?


Throughout my life, I’ve been known as the person who can navigate any public transportation system. It’s a skill I learned very early on, and I would definitely credit the fact that I grew up about 100 feet from a T-stop for that skill, and also for my preference for showing others how it’s easy to get around by public transport, as long as you have a bit of patience.
-Jack

[Now] that the extension of the green line is real, and is a real extension of the line that I grew up on, all of a sudden this feeling that the MBTA is this static entity that has always been exactly what it is – which was a bit broken in a very good way. Realizing that the MBTA can grow and change is really exciting. —Campbell


Sharon Brody's sons, Jack and Campbell, visiting wagons in the rail yard after football practice, 1990s. (Sharon Brody/WBUR)
Sharon Brody’s sons, Jack and Campbell, visiting wagons in the rail yard after football practice, 1990s. (Sharon Brody/WBUR)

While my adult sons watch through the train windows on the extended line, discussing the intricacies of transit-oriented development, I’m again the mother of preschooler Campbell, calling me to host a series of birthday parties that leverage the value of his middle initial, “T.” Thus began the Campbell T Party. His slightly mystified friends would join us in riding to the end of the line at Riverside, watch the trains through a fence, and ride home on a wagon. You’ve never seen a happier birthday boy.

Even though it’s March 2022, I’m thrust back into a vanished October, using my nonexistent crafting skills to create Green Line wagon Halloween costumes for Campbell and Jack, complete with interchangeable Velcro-attached destination signs, including including separate labels for the B, C, D and E trains, and for good measure the “X Instruction Car” – all to the exacting specifications of these miniature experts.

Finally, the threads of unity and trains bring me back to now, just as the round trip from Lechmere to Union Square to Lechmere ends, too soon.


What makes the T special to me is pretty much the green line. It is a trolley system with several branches; Iyou runs on the street; it circulates on its own uneven grip; it flows underground; and it runs on an overpass. But it’s all done with these adorable little carts. I will definitely say that the Green Street Line is probably the cutest public rail transit system in the United States. -Jack

It’s the oldest subway in America and I love it. And so all I want to do when I ride this new part is share that, and I want to take everyone with me, you know? —Campbell

I would like to commit right now that whenever the rail is extended on the MBTA, we will ride it together as a family. -Jack

Family ties, friends, I tell you. Savor them like the rides they are. You could just access familiar places in a whole new way.

Sharon Brody and her sons Jack and Campbell on their excursion along the MBTA Green Line Extension at the new Union Square station in Somerville.  (Sharon Brody/WBUR)
Sharon Brody and her sons Jack and Campbell on their excursion along the MBTA Green Line Extension at the new Union Square station in Somerville. (Sharon Brody/WBUR)

WBUR’s Aimee Moon co-produced this story.

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