I woke up this morning early. I mean really early, like w-a-y before dawn. I often do that when I’ve got a book cooking, as I do now. Hard to stop the wheels from turning. But this morning was different. This morning something else was on my mind … Patriot’s Day!
I spent a goodly portion of my growing up years in Concord, Massachusetts.
And for anyone who grew up in this historic town, April 19th will always have a special significance. First of all, we always got the day off from school. Second, a parade was involved, along with fifes and drums and cannons and men in uniforms. Last but not least, there was food. Always a good thing when you’re a tween.
It was very exciting.
Our house was within walking distance of Minute Man National Park, and the Old North Bridge.
I considered it an extension of my backyard, and used to walk or ride my bike over there all the time. I’d find a tree and climb it, and hang out spying on the tourists, or reading. It was great.
The Old North Bridge was even more fun on Patriot’s Day, though. Each time the holiday rolled around, my dad (who was the elementary school principal in neighboring Lincoln, Massachusetts, and who pounced on every educational opportunity that life afforded) would roust my sisters and me out of bed at 4:00 a.m. and hustle our sleepy little selves down the street to watch the battle reenactment. I still remember the ripple of excitement that pulsed through the gathered crowd as two men on horseback thundered into view — men dressed up as William Dawes and Samuel Prescott, who had accompanied Paul Revere for the final leg of his famous ride from Boston raising the alarm (“the British are coming!”). Paul didn’t quite make it to Concord. A British patrol stopped the three of them just outside of town. Paul was detained, but Dawes and Prescott escaped, so word got through.
Here’s N.C. Wyeth’s famous painting of Paul Revere:
Love that N. C. Wyeth.
As dawn lightened the sky, we began to hear the rattle and snap of snare drums, and gradually, more men appeared. Redcoats, of course:
And also the local militia, the ragtag farmers and residents who streamed in from all the neighboring towns to join their Concord brethren in the face-off against the British. Here are the Acton Minutemen arriving on the scene:
By this time my sisters and I were usually hungry, cold, and complaining that we had to go to the bathroom. Sometimes, a quick trip home was in order. More often, we were told to suck it up and hang in there. Soon, the battle reenactment got underway:
Things looked dicey for a while for our minutemen, and I remember worrying that maybe this time it wouldn’t turn out so well for them. But our side always rallied:
When it was over and the redcoats were properly routed and sent packing, it was time for the 21-gun salute. I would plug my ears to try and block out the deafening sound, but this was pointless, of course, because the boom of the cannons reverberated through every bone in my body.
Finally, it was time for the best part of the morning, the event my sisters and I had REALLY been waiting for:
The parade was the icing on the cake.
Nowadays, of course, Patriot’s Day is celebrated on the third Monday in April, no matter the date. It’s only once in a blue moon that it actually falls on April 19th, as it did this year. Maybe that’s why I awoke so early this morning…
Time to rustle up some pancakes.