I never knew that Paul Revere started his ride from Charlestown, and I didn’t know that he borrowed his horse. I never knew that the warning lanterns in the Old North Church were only hung for one minute. There is so much I don’t know. Was I not listening when this was taught or was it not taught? Was it my responsibility to fill in the details? How can a social studies teacher impart everything? Who decides what’s important?
I grew up near Concord and Lexington. We often took visitors to the bridge where the “Shot Heard Around The World” was fired. I went to college in Boston and spent many an hour and mile walking, stopping at historical sites. I’ve spent a lot of time in this city. And just yesterday I learned that Charlestown was the “opposite shore” where Paul Revere saw those lanterns. There is even a little plaque memorializing the site. I found it on a run along the harbor.
It’s our family reunion weekend and we are doing it differently this year. There is no snow and many of the younger generation had to work and couldn’t get away to ski. We also have a new baby, a new illness, and it just wasn’t working out to ski this year. So big brother got us great rooms in a great hotel in Boston and we are having a new experience. We’ve carefully avoided talking politics (such a relief, though the weekend isn’t over yet), caught-up on adventures, kids, house projects, future plans. We’ve met new boyfriends and girlfriends. Tasted new spirits. We share enthusiasm for our offspring who create lives we couldn’t imagine. We marvel at their success. We help out where we can. We are the older generation now. We take direction from them.
It is interesting to have new relationships be part of this annual weekend. We tell stories about our eventful childhoods and watch the faces of the newcomers. It’s reassuring to me to hear my siblings remembering things the way I do. I’m glad to confirm I haven’t made all this up. We reflect on what a rich history we have. We tell painful stories with humor and they seem less serious. I think we spent a good part of our lives protecting each other. It’s very clear the love runs deep. Our stories have gaps where details are sketchy. Those get filled in little by little. We relay a new pieces of evidence. It sheds light on the family dynamic and some things start to make more sense. I ask about some tidbit I learned in the family archives. Something that mystified me. I hear information that alters the assumptions I’d formed. The emotions mellow. The skies clear. The world makes more sense.
I realize I have never seen the Boston skyline from this direction. I see the familiar landmarks in a new way. I think about how dangerous the crossing to Charlestown must have been; how brave and resolute the patriots were. I think about what was at stake.
A dangerous crossing looks different once we’ve made it safely ashore. I make note to remember this and resolve to look from every angle. How different the stories might turn out if I’d done that all along.