Monday, April 26, 2010

Just a Minute

April is getting away from me, as I knew she would. Forsythias are shedding their exclamatory yellow, leaving declarative green. Daffodils and pear blossoms are dropping off the caravan. Spring has become a conglomerate, a unison of information called Spring Inc. Incrementally it will grow bigger, warmer, fuller, and change its name to Summer. And I'm saying, just a minute, whoa. How am I going to spot a Blackburnian warbler in these leafy canopies?

I missed Patriot's Day when I was out in western Mass. It's a state holiday (also observed in Maine and Wisconsin), but I think it's mainly celebrated in Boston and vicinity, where history lives in battle sites and old houses and plaques announcing events 300 years old as if they are still part of the daily experience. Boston has the Marathon on that day. Lexington and Concord have reenactments of the shot heard 'round the world at the Old North Bridge and the fateful dawn skirmish at Lexington Green. Arlington has a parade and William Dawes at full gallop up Massachusetts Avenue and demonstrations of musketry and colonial crafts at the Jason Russell House. It's definitely Uncle Arthur's Day for tunes on fife and drums. A day to measure time in many different ways: historically, seasonally, with a calendar or a stopwatch. And even one week late.

My father-in-law, C. R. Schwab, Treasurer and unofficial poet-in-residence of the Arlington Seniors Association, wrote a poem that fills out the day even further. I present it here with his permission and my thanks.

A Few Details

We were recently having lunch
At the Center for Senior Citizens.
Come to think, it might have been
Shortly before Patriot's Day here in Boston.
Or maybe one or two days after.
Anyway, talk at the table got around
To the subject of the Lexington battle
And the celebrated volunteer farmers and artisans.
At some point Win Howard—he's a member
Of the town's historical society, and knows
A lot about the Colonial period—
Well, he was filling in a few of the newcomers
On some of the local lore. I might mention
We usually have about five regulars
Sitting round an octagonal table.
The others are often new to the town
And occasionally some are from out of state.
Anyway, Win happened to say,
"You probably never heard of a club
Called the Just-a-Minute Boys. It seems
That a small group of youngsters around here—
This was ten or so years before the battle—
They joined to commiserate with each other
About their folks' constant demands:
'Ezra, help your father take off his boots;'
'Samuel, help your mother set the table;'
'Elijah, go out and call your sister.'
Well, the usual answer was 'Just a minute!'
The boys' gripe was not about being asked,
But the fact that their parents were always saying,
'Just a minute yourself! If you don't get
Those words out of your head soon,
You'll never amount to anything.'
So they banded together secretly
In order to share their common grievance.
They built a hideaway clubhouse and
Adopted the password, 'Just a Minute.'
Well, it wasn't long before they were grown.
And now instead of parental commands,
They were subject to the royal governor's edicts
And the demands of the English tax collectors.
'Just a minute,' they said, 'this is too much!'"
Then, explained Howard, this cry was picked up
Around the countryside, and soon
Hundreds of Just-a-Minutemen joined the cause.
"Eventually their name was shortened to Minutemen.
England (the colonies' parent), of course
Warned that these unruly 'children'
Would never amount to anything, but...
You know the rest." To the skeptics Win said,
"Sometimes the books miss a few details,
But their general description is correct."

C. R. Schwab

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