On the night of April 18th, 1775 Paul Revere and William Dawes rode out to warn the colonials that the British were armed and marching. In my corner of Massachusetts there are signs all over the place saying the two passed this spot and this spot and this one. I hope they at least went through the traffic lights! I would always think when I saw those signs as a kid.
People who live IN Concord and Lexington do this anniversary up big. The third Monday in April we celebrate by calling off school, shuttering scads of businesses and playing host to a little thing called the Boston Marathon.
I live only a few hills and meadows away from Concord and Lexington so I went there one April 18th, and in the middle of the night just as Dawes and Revere had done, together with my sister Nan, my cousin Sheila and our three young husbands. It was 1975 and to kick off this big 200-year mark of America’s birth President Ford was coming to the Old North Bridge. The six of us wanted to see him do it and so donned tri-cornered hats, grabbed two coolers of beer and drove to a place by the Concord Boat House. There we spent the night, playing cards in the car and laughing. At 5am we rented three canoes and paddled along the Concord River to that famous bridge – where we waited and waited and waited, until the President showed up, his head a distant balding egg.
There too we saw Caroline Kennedy, sprung from Concord Academy for the day, and heard many speeches blowing across the water. ( Here’s Caroline from back then, together with her mother Jackie, her fearsome grandmother Rose and her uncle Ted on the day she graduated from that fine private high school.)
It felt like the beginning of something big all right, this two-year celebration, with the reenactment of the battle, the first visit of the Tall Ships to our harbor and, for many of us kids, an Elton John concert on the Fourth of July 1976, at the stadium where the Pats still play, with Kiki Dee doing the opening act.
The longest game in professional baseball happened on this day too, played by two teams in the Triple A League in Pawtucket RI. It lasted for 33 innings and took almost eight and a half hours to finish. And that’s a nice American fact too.
But what I will always remember about this date is laughing my head off all night in a parking lot, then paddling through waters as silvery and smooth as mercury in the pre-dawn light. About that time I will always remember Kiki Dee doing “Don’t Go Breakin’ My Heart” with Elton. I knew that under the hippie-style maxi-dress I wore that day was the little bump that would become my first chid and likely forever end my days of drinking and laughing until sun-up. But that was fine too. I was ready.
I guess I knew too that life would go breakin’ my own heart, as life does, but I hope I knew too that there would also be joys both loud and quiet, and brights dawn, and music to give it all a soundtrack.