The Boston Tea Party you never read about

I witnessed the Boston Tea Party, the Battle at Concord and Paul Revere’s Ride.

You didn’t think I was that old, did you?

I was a kid at the time, living in a Kansas City, Missouri, neighborhood that went all out for the Fourth of July.

Old, fuzzy black and white snapshots of the Battle at Concord sharpen the memories. Red Coats are lined up in costumes that aren’t half bad if you can overlook the tie dress-shoes and long white socks pulled up over pant legs. They are wielding guns (not loaded) and a British flag.

Kids, more kids, tricycles, bicycles, baby strollers and women wearing Bermuda shorts line both sides of the street.

Lest you become confused, there is signage. Magic marker on a posterboard reads “Battle at Concord, April 19, 1775.”

A small bridge sits in the middle of the street. The Red Coats approach from one direction and the Minutemen from the other. The Minutemen fire and the British run like scared rabbits. Neither side suffers a single casualty—a slightly different outcome from the original Battle at Concord, but revisionist history had to start somewhere.

All that really mattered was that we whupped ‘em again.

A neighbor man, who had a horse pastured in the country, was the main act the year Paul Revere’s Midnight Ride was the featured attraction. Down the street he flew on his horse, tacatac, tacatac, past the letter drop mailbox, tacatac, tacatac, past a Plymouth Fury Suburban station wagon and a Corvair convertible, past kids waving flags, all the while shouting, “The British are Coming! The British are Coming!”

No one was overly concerned that the British were coming because we’d seen how they scattered like chickens the year before.

The most memorable of these gatherings was the year of the Boston Tea Party. Grown-ups worked hours in a neighbor’s garage building a ship on a platform on wheels. There was even a party table onboard the ship with a punch bowl and cups, courtesy of my mother. The crowd roared as crates of tea were heaved onto the blacktop. Our dad was onboard, heaving tea and celebrating with punch.

He took a nap in the front yard beneath the shade of an elm tree that afternoon. My mother mentioned that she had spiked the punch onboard the ship. Yes, she had taken liberties.

I have often wondered if the Fourth of July in our old neighborhood was over the top because so many in our neighborhood had served in World War II. Military service had been borne by the many in those days, not just a few.

They had seen the horrors of fascism with their own eyes, just as they had witnessed the bloody cost of freedom. Many bore some of those costs for a lifetime. Shared sacrifice yielded a strong pulsebeat of patriotism.

There were democrats, republicans, non-voters, white-collar and blue-collar workers among those staging the Fourth of July celebrations—but the differences among them were superseded by a love of country and deep respect and appreciation for freedom.

There is no perfect nation. There never has been and never will be. That said, we have always been a city shining on hill, a nation of possibilities, hopes and dreams. Maybe it’s possible that a respect for freedom and love of liberty will unite us again.

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Small back seat rider is a breeze

I am about to make my umpteenth trip to the grocery and am not happy about it. Having gathered my shopping essentials—wallet, car keys, cell phone, a list in illegible handwriting, reading glasses and a small chip on my shoulder, I hear a soft voice ask, “Grandma, can I go with you?”

Of course, she can’t go with me. She will slow me down. She will impede efficiency. Besides, if she goes, her brothers and sisters may want to go. This is not a field trip; it is a quick grocery run.

“Well, can I?” she asks.

“Sure,” I hear myself say. “Get your shoes.”

I help buckle her into the back seat, slip into the driver’s seat, start the car and hear a soft hum.

“I put my window down,” she cheerfully announces. “Grandma, don’t you want to put your window down?”

Hadn’t thought about it. The sun is shining and the humidity is low. It may be a near perfect day.  I put my window down. “I don’t usually drive with the windows down,” I say.

“Oh!” she gushes with excitement. “We drive with the windows down! But not on the highway. We have to put all the windows up on the highway. Are we going on the highway?”

“No, not on the highway, but we will be on a very busy street, so I’d like you to put your window up in a few blocks.”

“Grandma, do you know why I like the window down?”


“To feel the breeze, Grandma.”

We slow to a stop behind a long line of cars waiting for red to turn green.

“Oh, look, Grandma! Look at that lady’s steering wheel! It’s very pretty!”

The car next to us has a steering wheel cover made of solid bling that sparkles in the sun.

“Do you think she made it herself?” she gasps. The child is beholding one of the seven wonders of the world. “Maybe she bought all those sparkles at a garage sale and glued them on, one at a time.”


“Do you know why I like the window down, Grandma?”

“To feel the breeze?”

“Yes, but I also like to look for excavators. I saw 11.”

“When did you see 11 excavators?”

“Not all at one time, but I keep track of them and I’ve seen 11. You know what’s funny, Grandma?”


“I thought you were turning into the store back there, but you were only getting on the other side of the road!”

It was not an abrupt lane change; the girl simply notices everything. I have a rare treasure in the back seat, one of the only human beings left on earth who absorbs the present and lives in the now. We arrive at the store, quickly gather what we came for and head home. Windows up.

“Grandma! Look at that car—that’s a cool car! That man has ALL his windows down!”

He is fortunate, the man in the sleek convertible with all the windows and the top down. But at this moment, on this day and in this traffic, I may be the most fortunate of all.

We turn into the neighborhood, put all the windows down and take the long way home.

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Is it borrowing, stealing or simply caretaking?

I have found that one of the best ways to refurbish aging kitchen goods is to attend a pitch-in dinner. I have just returned from a large family gathering to which I took a spinach salad and came home with baked beans, watermelon and a slab of chocolate cake, all in durable glass containers with plastic lids that fit and are not cracked.

“Possession is nine-tenths of the law,” does indeed apply to dishware.

And, yes, I have a good idea the dishes belong to the daughter who hosted the gathering, but I also have a good idea she probably has some of my dishes, so I’m willing to call it a wash.

Well, the containers aren’t washed yet, but they will be soon.

Of course, pilfering from a family pitch-in is one thing and pilfering from a church pitch-in is another. People you share a faith with have expectations that you are honest about whom the dishes belong to. There is a silent understanding that you will abide by the 11th commandment, “Thou shall not take home another’s empty 9 x 13, pretty platter or serving utensil.”

A friend once took home a pretty plate I had taken to a funeral dinner, a plate that had my name written on the bottom of it. She returned it several months later saying I had left without it, so she took it home and had enjoyed using it in the meantime. I was flattered she liked my taste in dishware. Besides, I have done similar things. (Far be it from me to cast the first salad fork.)

I once accidently brought home a pair of stainless-steel tongs after helping serve a church dinner. It was an inner-city church, a poor church that welcomes the downtrodden and the homeless, a church where one would want to come home thinking you had done some small measure of good, not looted the kitchen.

I put the tongs on a shelf intending to return them. Soon I found myself checking out the lock feature on the tongs. Fabulous. Mine hadn’t worked in years. Then I found myself using the tongs. Turning chicken breasts. Lifting spaghetti to see if it looked done. Pulling corn on the cob from boiling water. I switched from thinking I had “taken them” to I was “taking care of them.”

Isn’t that how it always starts? Tongs one day, grand theft auto the next.

Good thing for those church friends in the city that their commercial restaurant-grade warmer is bolted to the floor as I have always thought one of those would be nice to have, too.

I returned the tongs and am sleeping better, thank you very much.

These days, I’m toying with updating our KitchenAid mixer. Ours was a wedding gift some 40 years ago and overheats on high. Both of our girls and our daughter-in-law all have newer models. I wonder if any of them have written their names on the bottom.

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The Venmo solution to the high cost of living

The message painted on a car window in the parking lot said, “Honk!! Just Married—Venmo @. . . “ followed by a woman’s name.

Venmo is a popular app you can put on your phone to securely send and receive money from friends and family. It is widely used among younger people and handy for splitting a dinner tab, sharing the cost of a gift, and apparently for asking strangers to help foot the bill for your wedding.

Miss Manners and Emily Post never covered Venmo etiquette. If they had, I imagine their response would have been to put “please” at the end of the request plastered on your car window. Good manners are timeless.

My first response is that it was crass to ask random people to help pay for a wedding.

But I thought about it a little more, and a little bit more, and I wound up thinking, well, “Honk!! Just Bought Groceries! Venmo Me!”

“Honk!! Car Needs Fill-up! Venmo Me!”

“Honk!! Three grandkids with birthdays this month! Venmo Me!”

Suddenly, I had more messages to put on the car than the car had windows. Clearly, we’d need to get a bigger vehicle.

“Honk!! Just Bought New SUV! Venmo Me!”

High cost of living got you down? Can’t pay your bills? Demand others pay them for you!

Recently, financial gurus have advised people to calculate their personal rate of inflation as opposed to the 8 percent rate of inflation touted by the government.

Determine your monthly expenses for food, housing, clothing, transportation, medical care, recreation, education, etc., then, subtract your monthly spending a year ago from your current monthly spending and voila! you have your personal rate of inflation.

Everybody is feeling the squeeze. The husband announced he was going to take me somewhere expensive the other night. He took me to the gas station.

A year ago, our grandkids set up a lemonade stand to capitalize on the neighborhood garage sale. (We start our entrepreneurs young.) I carefully explained that their total intake, minus supply costs, would equal the profit. When I reminded them that the Walmart frozen lemonade was $1 a can, they did some quick figuring, followed by murmurs of watering down the lemonade and going heavy on the ice.

Wait until they find out that this year the same lemonade that was $1 last year is $1.25 this year. It will be multiplication, subtraction, decimal points and percentages rolled into one. Real-life math and real-life rate of inflation.

“Honk! Lemonade Up 25%! Venmo the Kids!”


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