Thanks(giving) for Nothing
Thanksgiving of 2009, I decided to start a new family tradition. All this time we’ve been living within a stone’s throw of Plymouth (formerly Plimoth before the settler’s learned proper English) the very birthplace of English colonization and what would eventually become the United States. Being the father of a five-year-old, I thought it would be a great opportunity to give her a history lesson – my least favorite subject.
Now I believe that, despite the travesties that occurred after the initial settlements, the Pilgrims were peace-loving people just seeking to settle down in the quiet of the (new) country. I don’t blame that first group for what happened afterward anymore than you can blame Doug and Mary Johnson for their next door neighbors…the Manson Family.
So with optimism and as great a fervor as I could muster, we cheerfully drove down that lonely stretch of Route 44 to the beautiful Plymouth waterfront. After overshooting our exit and turning around finding our way through various twists and turns, we eventually made it. My ancestor, Francis Cooke, sailed on the Mayflower across a largely uncharted Atlantic and found the New World. I can’t drive 20 miles on straight shot and get where I’m going…but I digress.
The day was beautiful. Overcast, but temperate, and barely a whisper of a breeze which is as rare as a Congress without a Kennedy. First stop: a parking space. Four hundred years ago, parking was ample in downtown Plymouth and cheaper. Myles Standish could park his Olds anywhere he pleased. But we have it much tougher than the Pilgrims. After patiently stalking…I mean waiting…for a space to open up, we trekked on over to the world famous Plymouth Rock.
Surrounded by a beautiful granite colonnade similar to the Lincoln Memorial, there it sits. Down in a hole protected by wrought iron fencing, nestled in the sand and pelted with various coins, lay the Plymouth Rock. The same rock, as legend has it, that the Pilgrims first set foot on. What’s even more amazing is the astronomical odds of them stepping on a rock that has the date they arrived chiseled into the top of it. No doubt the work of Nostradamus. It was beautiful, and, after doing the best I can to emphasize the significance of this piece of earth to a five-year-old, we eventually trudged on.
We mozied over to the Mayflower II, enjoying the wonder aromatics of low-tide as we went. With masts rising majestically from the waterfront, the Mayflower II adorns the shoreline transporting us back to 1620…except I’m pretty sure they didn’t have a gift shop back then. We enjoyed walking around the smaller replica of the ship that transported so many people in so tight a quarters. We didn’t actually go on it as I don’t pay $10 ($27 for all of us) to board a ship that isn’t going anywhere. Even five minutes around the harbor? No, it just sits there.
Once again, I was father-turned-professor explaining the hardships our predecessors faced, that tough first winter without rock-salt or snow shovels, and how the Native Americans (also my heritage…yes, one ancestor killed off the other ancestors) befriended and helped them. And, of course, how all of this lead to a great harvest and a feast giving thanks to God and their new friends without bickering about how little they see each other.
It was a nice day overall. My wife enjoyed it, I enjoyed it, the weather was beautiful, and my daughter was all smiles. It is something we will repeat this year and will probably continue until my daughter rolls her eyes and sighs a lot. The best part, I thought, was giving my daughter a new appreciation and sense of gratitude for where we came from and how easy we have it today. That afternoon, my mother-in-law asked her about her trip to majestic old Plymouth. Her reply? “We saw a boat and a rock.” Oh well.