2 Moms. 5 kids. 1 van. 3 weeks. 3000 miles. Are we amazing or are we crazy? You decide.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Day 11: "The British are coming! The British are coming!"

Most parents today are close enough in age to me to remember waking up for Saturday morning cartoons. Real cartoons, the ones that had Wile E. Coyote blowing himself up (due to user error, of course, and not reading the small print on the directions for ACME Explosives) and Bugs Bunny making double entendre comments to Elmer Fudd, as the latter chased the former. That’s where I learned most of what I know about opera, for instance, because having heard “Kill the wabbit, kill the wabbit!” once, I never forgot it.

Every now and then, the regularly scheduled programming would be interrupted by a short educational clip that somehow kept the kids glued to the television set. (Of course, I’ve seen this also in my children, and know now that it takes real talent to be so boring that you don’t keep the kids glued to the magic box that shows the moving pictures.)

Anyway, my knowledge of American History was formed at an early age by Schoolhouse Rock, as was my inner grammar nerd. (Come on, didn’t you rock out to ‘Conjunction Junction’ and ‘Lolly Lolly Lolly, Get Your Adverbs Here’?) So when we began planning the trip, I watched I played America Rock for my kids more than once. They’re memorizing the Preamble to the Constitution in much the same way we did, by singing along. So of course, today we sang as we drove north (much to the annoyance of M, the sullen teenager, who is Far Too Cool for his family. Ah, the tragedies of birth.) Sing with me now:

Now the ride of Paul Revere
Set the nation on its ear,
As the shot at Lexington heard ‘round the world
When the British fired at early dawn
The War of Independence had begun,
The die was cast, the rebel flag unfurled. . .

Before we made it to Minuteman NP, I had to be talked out of driving the gang past Walden Pond. I was a junior in college when I first read Thoreau & other American Transcendentalists, and remember being floored. (There, Dad, that should make up for driving to Hendersonville on Sundays for beer. I actually learned something, in between plays and parties. Money well spent, right?) I highlighted the texts wherever I found a quotable quote, and found that more words were highlighted than not. I don’t have the quote memorized, and don’t remember whether it was Emerson or Thoreau, but one of them wrote that consistency was overrated—a ship doesn’t sail in a straight line, but rather makes a thousand tacks. I called my mother, who had recently taken up sailing in her mid-40s—an age that sounds younger every year—and delighted her with the quote. We had more in common than I’ll ever admit. She was (and I am) a person of inconstant extremes, so finding an excuse for such was wonderful.

(Edit: Have found the quote. Emerson, from Self Reliance:
The voyage of the best ship is a zigzag line of a hundred tacks. See the line from a sufficient distance, and it straightens itself to the average tendency. Your genuine action will explain itself, and will explain your other genuine actions. Your conformity explains nothing.

End edit.)
Did I mention the rain? The torrential rain, which made me gloat—I had brought the umbrellas out of the van. It had only been sprinkling then, and I had been mocked. I did insist that the mockers apologize before using umbrellas, because I am just that way. We made it to the North Bridge, without a rowboat, where we had a view of the Old Manse, where Emerson lived, which made my little liberal arts heart go pitter pat. We’d planned on reading the Emerson poem, but didn’t want to lug the laptop that far (didn’t travel with the printer), so settled for a dramatic! reading! of Longfellow. I’d have to say that reads almost as well as The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, and yes, I did tear up.

Listen, my children, and you shall hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,
On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-Five;
Hardly a man is now alive
Who remembers that famous day and year. . .
Of course, Longfellow was no more historically accurate than the John Jakes novels. Revere was one of several riders that night; William Dawes and Dr. Samuel Prescott. Dawes and Revere met Dr. Prescott by accident that night; he was returning home to Concord after going courting in Lexington. Dr. Prescott was actually the only rider to make it to Concord—Revere was arrested, and Dawes escaped and went home, the laggard. But Revere had the better press agent. Remember that; good press can overcome many a flaw.

When we got back to the car, soaked and muddied, we did boot up and read Concord Hymn by Emerson.

Concord Hymn
Ralph Waldo Emerson

By the rude bridge that arched the flood,
Their flag to April’s breeze unfurled,
Here once the embattled farmers stood,
And fired the shot heard round the world.

The foe long since in silence slept;
Alike the conqueror silent sleeps;
And Time the ruined bridge has swept
Down the dark stream which seaward creeps.

On this green bank, by this soft stream,
We set to-day a votive stone;
That memory may their deed redeem,
When, like our sires, our sons are gone.

Spirit, that made those heroes dare
To die, and leave their children free,
Bid Time and Nature gently spare
The shaft we raise to them and thee.
Yeah. We teared up again. At least the sentimental grownups did.

I have more to blog about this day, but since this is already at 4 pages, I’ll stop. I need to drive about 15 minutes to be able to steal bandwidth to put this and some other posts up.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I don't think you ever shared that Mother moment with me. Very special.

When will you get to sing, "I'm just a bill...sittin' here on capitol hill...."?

Atlanta Aunt now living in ZHouston--missing my East coast family just a bit