Around here everybody knows that 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. For decades now there have been 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 red lights I’d always think when I saw those signs as a kid.
People who live IN Concord and Lexington do this anniversary up big. We call it Patriots Day and each year on he 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 too went there one April 18th, and in the middle of the night, 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 to give a speech. The six of us wanted to see him do it and we so donned tri-cornered hats, packed a cooler of food and beer and drove to a spot by the Concord Boat House. There we spent the night, playing cards in the car and laughing and at 5am rented three canoes and paddled down the Concord River to that famous bridge – where we waited and waited and waited from a spot 100 yards distant until he finally 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 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 battles, the first visit of the Tall Ships and, for many of us kids, an Elton John concert on the Fourth of July, 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 Triple A teams 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 silver as mercury in the pre-dawn light. About the year too I’ll always remember Kiki Dee doing “Don’t Go Breakin’ My Heart” with Elton. I knew at that concert that under the hippie-style maxi-dress I wore was the little bump that would six months later become my first chid and likely end forever my days of drinking and laughing ’til sun-up. But that was fine; I was ready.
I guess I knew that life would go breakin’ my own heart, as life tends to do, but I hope I knew too that there would also be joys both loud and quiet, and bright mornings – and music to give it all a soundtrack.