by Paula Gail Benson
Growing up, I remember hearing the story of the Pilgrims coming to Plymouth Rock during this time of year. I would help my mother pin paper figures of early settlers, Native Americans, turkeys, and autumn leaves on her first grade classroom bulletin boards. The effect was very much like the images we would see on Thanksgiving morning when we turned on the Macy’s parade and watched the giant bird and Pilgrim head floats wheeling down 34th Street.
This year, I’ve had my eyes opened about a few “traditional” Thanksgiving ideas.
While in a doctor’s waiting room this summer, I picked up the November 2014 issue of Highlights for Children and read a short story about a contemporary young girl trying to convince her parents to prepare a Thanksgiving dinner like the first feast. The family quickly realized the idea was impractical in that several favorite dishes (like pie, cranberries, and potatoes) would be missing and that others would be difficult, if not impossible, to obtain (lobster, eel, partridge, and–horrors!–eagle).
Also during the summer, I went to Boston on a business trip and spent a few extra days touring the surrounding area. One of my trips took me to Plymouth, a seaside village that boasts a replica of the Mayflower (the Mayflower II) and the remaining rock itself.
Further down the street, a stone portico sheltered “Plymouth Rock.”
In my imagination, a massive boulder represented the place where the Pilgrims first walked. Surely, it must look like Henry A. Bacon’s painting, The Landing of the Pilgrims.
Well, perhaps it did once. But, in 1774, the townspeople of Plymouth decided to move the rock, which resulted in it being split into two portions. The top part moved to various locations around Plymouth and eventually had the date 1620 inscribed in it. You can read about its journeys in Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plymouth_Rock) and Trip Savvy (https://www.tripsavvy.com/visit-the-plymouth-rock-1599133).
Our bus driver had warned us not to expect too much when we went to view the rock. The canopy seemed a bit grand when we stared at the portion of granite that had been preserved. Yet, as I listened to the officer quietly tell the story and gazed down at a small, yet inspirational part of the American heritage, I could sense a connection with the band of travelers seeking religious freedom on a distant shore.
There was one other connection that made me seek out the rock. The first short story I ever completed was written in a spiral notebook my aunt had given me. I wrote it on a Thanksgiving Day during my childhood. That story was about a young Pilgrim girl, probably about my age, who had survived the devastating winter with her father, but had lost her beloved brother. As she helped to prepare the feast, she wondered whether the struggle had been worth the cost. Finally, she happened to hear her father in prayer, expressing thanks to still have her and pride in all that she had accomplished. Her father’s words renewed her resolve to continue to face the challenges in the new world.
So, when I had the opportunity to gaze upon that small chunk of remaining Plymouth Rock, I remembered the child I had been who wrote her first story and believed that she would write others. In the same way Plymouth Rock makes us grateful for those who came before us, I’m very thankful that its legacy helped me to become a writer.
As we approach Thanksgiving, what makes you grateful as a writer?
|Plymouth Panorama from Wikipedia|