Shakespeare had a milestone birthday this year, and since my big 4-0 deserved a getaway, then her entry to the teenage years definitely warranted a trip. So we decided to take her away for a weekend- without her sisters. Choosing a nice city about 3 hours from our house with culture, shopping and dining was sure to set the stage for a memorable 13th birthday. And then some spontaneous internet surfing resulted in a discovery that Shakespeare’s favorite ukulele playing artist happened to be playing a concert the exact night we were planning to be away – in a city 6 hours from home, in the opposite direction from where we were planning to go. What to do? Easy decision. We scrapped plan 1, pulled in some serious family favors to get babysitting for HuskyGirl and WeezyJean, and took off for a 24 hour whirlwind trip to Boston.
Not only did this trip enable us to take Shakespeare to see her very first concert, but she’s also a bit of a Revolutionary War fanatic. In Kindergarten each child was given a turkey-shaped cut-out to “disguise” for Thanksgiving – so as not to get eaten. Among the wall of turkeys decorated like Hannah Montana and Spiderman was one lone turkey with a cotton-ball wig and dollar-bill visage. Her turkey was George Washington, and her paperback copy of Magic Treehouse’s Nonfiction Companion to Revolutionary War on Wednesday eventually fell apart from so many readings.
Boston, the birthplace of the American Revolution, was the perfect place to spend her birthday weekend. Beginning at Boston Common we walked the entire Freedom Trail. We saw the final resting sites of her favorite revolutionaries- yes, she has favorites- their stomping grounds, their homes, and their places of worship. Looking up at the balcony of the Old State House, where the Declaration of Independence was read for the first time in Boston, I literally had chills. After the most amazing cannoli ever, eaten in the North End, we climbed 294 excruciating steps and stood at the top of the Bunker Hill Monument. Our journey placed us in the footsteps of American history’s greatest patriots.
I also connected with my daughter in a way that we hadn’t for a while. As she’s growing up it is really fun to engage in shared experiences – complete with inside jokes, which had us in stitches. It was exciting to let her determine our plans, and although I find it hard to let go of control, I loved seeing her advocate for her interests. Not only did everything turn out perfectly, but I did things I would never have chosen myself.
Take some time this summer, with a vacation or stay-cation, to stage a revolutionary getaway – one that indulges the passions of your younger travelers. Allow them to overthrow the adult planning tyrants and determine their own vacation destiny. Not only will they be empowered and enthusiastic about the trip, but chances are you’ll learn more about them than you ever imagined, and be awed in the process.
Check out these “revolutionary reads” that support a trip to Boston’s Freedom Trail.
Paul Revere’s Ride by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow – The classic poem chronicling the events of April, 1775 that officially started the American Revolution. This is a must read if you plan to stop at the Paul Revere House and Old North Church. PB *PBP Note: During our Freedom Trail visit we determined that Longfellow just couldn’t find a rhyme for William Dawes or Samuel Prescott, and that’s why we remember Revere above the others who rode that fateful night. We also attempted to re-write the poem to include the slighted men, much to our amusement. We challenge you to give it a try!
You Wouldn’t Want to Be at the Boston Tea Party!: Wharf Water Tea You’d Rather Not Drink by Peter Cook – An engaging overview of the events that lead to Boston’s rise as the center of the pre-revolutionary colonial conflict. Meet the Sons of Liberty and discover their motivation to break from England, and the risks involved. ER-2/3
Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes – As a silversmith apprentice 14 year-old Johnny is injured trying to make a sugar basin for John Hancock. His despair threatens to destroy him, until a good friend pulls him into the heart of the Sons of Liberty and he finds purpose in the Revolutionary cause. Newbery Medal Winner 1944. MR – 5/7 *PBP Note: Just a block off the official Freedom Trail you’ll find the only remaining part of Province House, the residence of Massachusetts colony’s royal governors – the back stone steps that led to the formal gardens. These steps brought to life a vision of Johnny Tremain visiting Cilla at the Lyte’s house. And isn’t that what great historical literature does? Bringing facts, dates, and even cold stone steps into fully-formed impressions of past human struggles.
The Secret of Sarah Revere by Ann Rinaldi – Rinaldi, a master of historical fiction for the YA set, shares the struggle for independence from the point-of-view of a young woman whose father was a leading revolutionary. Sarah Revere reflects on the struggles leading to the American Revolution, as she faces challenges at home with her family and her emerging role as a young woman of Boston. Check out Ann Rinaldi’s other books for riveting female perspectives throughout history, including The Fifth of March which brings to life the events surrounding the Boston Massacre. MR- 5/7
Regina Silsby’s Secret War by Thomas J. Brodeur – Looking for a little sinister supernatural with your history? Rachel Winslow witnesses the Boston Tea Party and she narrowly escapes the Tory soldiers with a little luck, or was it more? Did the spirit of long dead Regina Silsby help her by thwarting their pursuit? Rachel uses the superstitious nature of the Redcoats against them, and the legend of Regina to help the patriot cause. MR – 5/7
Looking to stay with the Revolutionary War theme but branch out from Boston proper? Check out the earlier post Patriotic Pigeon or find information at the National Park Service: Revolutionary War website. Click on Revolutionary Parks and Tour the Revolution to take a virtual tour of the Revolutionary era historic sites from Florida to Maine.