... of the Old North Bridge, a coin, Clarence DeMar and a family re-enactment
At last - its April. And as an almost-seven-year-old, I'd been hearing my Mom and Dad talking about the Nineteenth-of-April and had no idea what it was all about. They told me its proper name: Evacuation Day, the day the Patriots chased the Redcoats out of Concord and Lexington, all the way back to Cambridge. But that was grown-up talk. I was more interested in the warmth of spring, and that as a farm-boy I could finally go barefoot if it was warm enough.
But when the Nineteenth-of-April finally arrived, my Dad told me to put on my shoes, and off we went to Concord, to be early at the Old North Bridge. Soon the place was packed with people. Everyone seemed to be waiting for something, all of us behind a barrier to leave the road to the bridge open for whatever was going to happen.
Then suddenly, I heard the sounds of shouting, gun shots, and men running. Soon I could see them, men in red uniforms, running for their lives over the Old North Bridge. My father told me they were imitating the German Hessian soldiers who had been trying to capture the Patriot supply of gunpowder. Sure enough, right behind them came a band of men dressed as Patriots, firing their blunderbusses, chasing the Redcoats over the bridge as fast as they could go. Their country-brown uniforms were just like those in my school books.
That's all I remember of it, except for a gift that afternoon, when my dad gave me a silver quarter, coined to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the original Nineteenth-of-April. He told me to be sure to keep the coin to remember the day. I still have it.
Many years later on the Nineteenth-of-April - I must have been 12 or so - I remember raking the leaves from under the sugar maple in back of the house, listening to the old Atwater Kent radio. My mother had placed its speaker in the back window, so we could all hear Clarence DeMar, the Melrose Champion, winning the Boston Marathon again. When I asked about it, my Dad told me that he and Clarence DeMar had been printers in the old Rand Avery Print shop in Boston. And my Mom told me that she went through Melrose High School with the girl that Clarence DeMar married.
Many years later, on a Nineteenth of April, I was standing next to the Old North Bridge again, in the same exact spot where I had been so many years before. And in just the same way that my Mom and Dad had brought me to the Old North Bridge, my wife and I brought our first daughter, Judith, less than a year old.
This time, there were no Redcoats at the Old North Bridge. There were only Patriots.
April 3, 2001