I love the US.
I love American history. I love our flag. The Fourth of July, Mom, and apple pie. Love it all.
On Easter Sunday, we celebrated the weekend with a bike ride from Lexington, Massachusetts, where the first shots of the American Revolutionary war were fired, to Boston, Massachusetts, and then back again to Lexington.
We are rebels.
Appropriate, I think.
When we parked our cars in Lexington, I picked up a few leaflets announcing Patriot’s Day activities. I was thrilled to find that a reenactment of Paul Revere’s ride into Lexington would be held in town that very night.
I get more excited about a Paul Revere reenactment than any band live in concert that I can think of.
I am a patriot and a rebel.
And a nerd.
I announced to my family that we would be staying in Lexington after our bike ride until 11:30 pm to witness this exciting event. Much moaning and groaning commenced, but I was not deterred.
“Hush,” I said. “We are staying, Paul Revere is going to be here, and you are going to love it.”
The bike path in Lexington is an award winning Rail- to-Trails path. If you are a biker and ever visit there, it’s a great ride. Only about 12 miles to Boston through beautiful communities.
Along the way, it occurred to me that our return would mirror Paul Revere’s famous ride from Boston to Lexington.
I prayed for our country as I rode. That the original godly plan for our nation would be realized. The Land of the Free. Home of the Brave. Justice. Liberty. The pursuit of happiness.
It was our first real ride of the year. A high sun and a cool breeze. People everywhere with spring fever smiles, and a city planning to celebrate its patriots.
We rode through Arlington and on to the Charles River across from the Harvard campus in Cambridge. We stopped to rest by the water. Boston was just a few stoplights around the corner.
When we jumped back on our bikes, I started praying again. Angels for our country. Freedom and peace.
My kids swerved left in front of me, and as the last one cleared my view, I saw the cause of their changing course. A man was running toward us with no sign of turning. And I was riding straight for him, a pedestrian game of chicken.
I made a decision in a split second. I pulled my bike on to the pavement from the soft shoulder to avoid hitting the runner. When I did, the front tire caught on the edge and then went full-on serpentine. The path was full of people, and I didn’t want to hit them either. I thought I could brake the bike, and it seemed to be working, so I put my foot down.
Never do that.
When I planted my foot, the bike was going too fast for me to stop. I saw the bike swing forward and then swerve left in front of me–with my right leg still on it. It twisted my whole body forward around my left leg, and I felt more deep pops in my knee than I could count. The bike threw me back, and I landed on my hip and then bounced over onto my shoulder. I was in so much pain, I think I left my body for one flashing second.
If the runner stopped to see if I was ok, it was in that second. As far as I know, he ran on.
But Good Samaritans are alive and well. The runner did not stop, but he was only one who passed me by. So many people took time to help me.
I prayed before I hit the ground that I would not have a serious injury.
But I confess that, as I went down, actually two thoughts went through my mind: One, an arrow prayer, “Oh! God! No injury!” And, two, this gem, “Dangit! I’m not going to get to see Paul Revere!”
A few minutes later, I tried to stand on that knee, and it buckled under me. The ambulance came soon after, and my rescuers lifted me onto the stretcher.
Delirious with pain and adrenaline, “I like your moons,” I said, pointing to the lunar phase tattoos on the arms of the shaved bald beautiful girl that buckled me into the stretcher straps.
“Why would I want to spend the day with Paul Revere when I can spend the day with you guys? First responders, my heroes!” I said to the guy that rode with me as I patted his knee and prayed for his safety. He smiled at me, only slightly patronizing, looking as young as my daughter.
Six hours and nine X-rays later, I left the ER with an extension knee cast and a pair of crutches.
My kids pushed my wheelchair out the front door as my husband pulled the van around to pick me up. All day, I had been watching the clock creep toward evening. Eight o’clock, nine o’clock, now almost ten. I was holding out hope that we would be in Lexington for Paul Revere’s ride and that, since I was injured, my family would do whatever I wanted.
I was not wasting this incident, I can promise you that.
When we got in the van, I said, “I really wanted to see Paul Revere.” Sigh.
I said again, “I just so really wanted to see Paul Revere.” Sigh. Sigh.
I waited a minute.
Then, “Well, so sad. I guess I won’t get to see Paul Revere.”
My husband’s turn to sigh. He said, “I think it’s crazy, but you are the one who got hurt. You can decide if you feel like waiting until ELEVEN THIRTY at night and then driving home.”
I felt like it.
I felt like I had been run over, but I felt good enough to wait for Paul Revere.
We got to Lexington to pick up our cars. My husband stopped by the pharmacy, and I waited and watched the clock. I became aware of fatigue, along with a little nagging sense that this might not be my best idea ever. But I wanted to see Paul Revere. So, so bad.
I wanted to live in a moment of pure passion. To put myself in the place of flawed men of the past and catch the vision they had for our future.
It is worth it to me to stay up late and hobble to a restored historical site. To stand on the same ground where blood was shed for my freedom, for our country’s freedom. To catch a little glimpse of what it really meant and what it really means now to be a Patriot, someone who believes in freedom enough to be willing to die for it.
I wanted to stand there for one moment among the minutemen and peer through the shadows at history. I wanted the strength and the courage and the fierce honor to fly through the air and hit me with the force of centuries.
Paul Revere was also interrupted on his ride to Lexington, a part of his story that we rarely hear. He was captured by the British in between Concord and Lexington, and I’m sure, for a moment, that he wondered if he would be able to complete his mission. John Hancock and Samuel Adams were waiting for information in Lexington so that they could determine their next move.
The British soldiers weren’t sure what to do with Paul Revere. Apparently they decided he was harmless and took him back with them to Lexington. After a short detainment they let him go, presumably with orders to stop being so rebellious.
Unbeknownst to them, they delivered him to his exact destination.
After his release, he rode straight to the Hancock house to warn John and Sam that the British were in town with warrants for their arrests. He helped them escape just a few hours before the troops marched into Lexington and the first shots of the war were fired.
My family thought we could drive in closer to the house, so I would only have to hobble a few feet. But the streets were blocked, and the guardians of the event were not impressed with my injury. We would have to “pahk in the pahking lot” and walk the quarter mile with everyone else.
We tried to access the house from every possible angle. My family looked earnest in their desire to humor me, and also earnestly exhausted. And the more we drove, the more fatigued I felt. My head hurt. My leg hurt.
“Ok,” I said, “You’re right. I know. We tried. We should go home.”
Back to the parking lot we went for our other car and left the city, my husband in his truck and me driving my van like a tin man, stiff legged and far away from the wheel.
As we drove away, I thought I might cry. I had missed my chance. I might not ever come this way on Patriot’s Day again. I had ridden from Boston to Lexington, raising up a prayer of freedom for our country, a prayer of all that was intended for this nation from the beginning. And I wanted to end it with the breathless sight of Paul Revere leaping off of his horse, interrupted but unstoppable.
We pulled to the last stoplight on our way out of town, minutes before the great event. I was fighting back tears, and then, out of nowhere in the dark, there he was.
Striding down the street in his long blue coat and tricorn hat, manly ponytail bouncing and dramatic.
I’m sure he saw me. And I’m pretty sure we nodded to each other, a dignified patriotic salute.
Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. Jn15:13
Through all our history, to the last,
in the hour of darkness and peril and need,
the people will waken and listen to hear
the hurrying hoof-beats of that steed,
and the midnight message of Paul Revere.
Written on Patriot’s Day, 2017.