Volunteering in my friend Charlotte’s first grade class, I get to relearn some things I’ve had to toss out of my brain to make room for the more “important” stuff like my social security number and all my online passwords.
Just the other day, I was reminded that a long time ago, way before man created ESPN 2 and Trivial Pursuit, the first Plymouth colonists gathered with their neighboring Indian friends to celebrate an ample harvest that has now become known as Thanksgiving.
The main man around town, Governor William Bradford proclaimed to all “ye pilgrims, with your wives, and ye little ones do gather at ye meeting house, on ye hill, between the hours of 9 and 12 in the day time, on Thursday, November 29th, the year of the lord one thousand six hundred and twenty-three and the third year since ye Pilgrims landed on ye Pilgrim Rock….”
Trying embossing that place and date on a piece of Crane card stock these days and I can guarantee you won’t be able to afford the 10 pound turkey or premium liquor. But if we look on the bright side, we can always say thank goodness for the fruits of technology and the little ole thing called “ye” Evite. This way we might be able to procure the 47 cups of peanut oil needed to fry the little sucker in the first place, as well as the 5 Brandy Alexanders needed to get through Aunt Shirley’s slide show of Eastern Europe.
All of this got me thinking; how much have things really changed since that November over 400 years ago?
First, there’s the obvious: when the pilgrims headed up that hill to the meeting place, I’m certain when they arrived there wasn’t a single autumn checked tablecloth from the Martha Stewart Home Collection or a tissue paper turkey accordion in sight. There was no Scattergories game to cause fighting between family members so vicious that it sends somebody packing for a premature departure. There weren’t yet the airline tickets to buy that cost as much as college. No one had the enjoyment of kicked seats and “Are we there, yet?”s for hours on end. Last, but not least, there wasn’t one single, dirty Pyrex dish to soak and scour.
We have made positive strides like having Hellman’s Mayonnaise and Ritz Cracker crumbs that we can pour all over our vegetables to our heart’s content. We can gorge on sweet pecan pies with Tennessee bourbon and chocolate chips while ingesting, like my daughter does, Reddi-Wip straight from the can. We may have to worry about cholesterol and Type 2 diabetes, but we don’t have to worry about diseases like small pox, polio, or that nasty gangrene. And not only do we not have to shoot, pluck, and dress our own turkey; we can call the Fourth of May and pick one up the same day.
There are however, some things that have stayed exactly the same. Women still do most, if not all of the cooking. And although we finally have forks, there are plenty of people around our table that still eat with their fingers. But most importantly, Thanksgiving reminds us, like our predecessors, to focus not on the stuff we don’t have, but on the stuff we do.
I always say that if you want to see simplicity and goodness, all you have to do is look at the world through the eyes of “ye little ones,” as Governor Bradford liked to call them. I learned a lot while helping the first grade students write their own Thanksgiving Proclamations. Here are some of the gems they shared.
Cason, Age 6:
“I am thankful for my Dad because he takes the time to play with me and build Legos; and my Mom because she gives good hugs and is always nice to me. I am thankful for my friends because they help me with things I can’t do and are fun to be with.”
Mary Ryals, Age 6:
“I am thankful for my house because if we did not have a house we would have to live on the side of the road. I am thankful for God because He is my father in Heaven.”
Malcolm, Age 7:
“I am thankful for the ocean because it has cool stuff in it. I am thankful for my brother, Henry, and my sister, Emmie, because they annoy me but keep my life interesting.”
Maybe today in our fast-paced, post-recession riddled, panicked world, we can, for a day at least, celebrate like the pilgrims before us the simple things like warmth, good food, health and love. And as our wise Malcolm, in all the infinite wisdom of his seven years, reminds us: rejoice in family even if they do drive you crazy because, if nothing else, they’ll keep us entertained long after the leftovers (and Brandy Alexanders) are gone.
Happy Thanksgiving, y’all!