It’s just a flesh wound!
Near the Indian restaurant we like and the music store where I bought C a ukulele for his second birthday, at the main intersection in this New England town, there is a corner park where an old train track runs catty-corner to the streets. Elsewhere in town, the route of the old tracks runs nearly parallel to the main road, and has become a bike trail. Weaving over and under the streets it crosses, and almost everywhere shaded with oaks and willows, the Minuteman Bikeway traces, as near as it can, the path Paul Revere trampled with his horse when on April 18, 1775, he (and others) rode to Lexington to warn the new Americans, “the Regulars are coming out!” (He didn’t actually say, “The British are coming!” Thanks, internet!) Now the words that usually ring out on the Minuteman sound more like “On your LEFT!” or “Move that stroller!” or worse sometimes, huffiness dependent on the seriousness of the cyclist.
On his own second birthday, recently, I took T there after Indian food and he stepped on and off the rails, holding his cousin’s hand, while I looked in the sheet music sale bin, filled with old Suzuki violin practice books, the same as I used to avoid as a child, and a piece of music called, “Pleasure Time.” And in the park there is also this stone monument, one of many in the town that mark some moment or other of the Revolutionary War. I held T’s hand while I took this picture:
I love this. Of course I don’t love the idea of anyone, especially not the British, dying. But in it there is so much to love and remind us about the New England persona. The best part of it, anyway: the part that is resolute, resilient. Full of stick-to-itiveness, as they say, with a little touch of stick-it-to-’em.
My cousin also loves this marker. We laughed as we thought of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and the knight who lost limb after limb and still stood fast, in his own insane way. “It’s just a flesh wound!” (Here’s a link to the scene, though I still maintain that, as great as Monty Python is, no one EVER sounds cool quoting it. I’m doing it, but I never said I was cool.) “It’s so New England,” she said, laughing. “Samuel Whittemore was just like all the other old coots around here, coming at some scamps yelling, ‘Get off my land, you whippersnappers!'”
Looking around, that sentiment remains, and it’s transferred from dry, crotchety farmers to local urban types: the Charlestown resident digging four feet of snow out of a parking space, then putting an old chair, or I’ve even seen a dresser, into it to save the spot that’s been dug out, and raising holy hell if anyone dares move that chair and takes the spot. Or my friend’s neighbor in Somerville, who cursed me out in front of a one-year-old C for daring to use his driveway to turn around on a narrow street (I’ll drive to the next town to avoid parking anywhere near the apron of his driveway, slapped up with menacing yellow paint). Or there’s the Boston driver willing to take a ding to the Subaru rather than let someone move in front of him (especially if that person has New York plates).
And then there’s me, having a canary and yelling at people who would park in my driveway when we lived in Cambridge (“It’s the principle of the thing!” I remember yelling at a neighbor. “If you would have asked me I would HAVE SAID YES!”). Isn’t that what we fought the Revolution for? John Locke? Life, liberty, and parking spaces, er, property! And a getting a good parking space truly is the pursuit of happiness in these parts.
When Samuel Whittemore stood his ground, when muskets were drawn on the Battle Green, anyone I was ever related to by blood was far from here – they were in the hot, dry mountains of the south of Italy, or the volcanic fields near Naples, or in quiet villages in the flatlands of the north of Germany. But nevertheless, the old Yankee spirit has found its way under my skin. Each time I enter a rotary to do battle with oncoming traffic, something deep within my flesh tells me not to give an inch. To stand my ground. Even if by law, I don’t have a leg to stand on.