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MARTHA SEZ: ‘You should be thankful you are not back at Plymouth Rock with the Pilgrims’

November 28, 2019
By MARTHA ALLEN , Lake Placid News

Happy Thanksgiving!

A young woman I know, a descendent of the settlers of Keene Valley, told me yesterday that she is taking her little boy to a hotel for the Thanksgiving weekend. The hotel has an indoor water park and a Thanksgiving buffet.

"Wow!" I marveled. "That's nontraditional. Not exactly a Pilgrim holiday."

Nothing daunted, she fired back, "Well, the Pilgrims weren't exactly traditional, either, were they? Can you imagine crossing the ocean in one of those ships? It took months. It must have been horrible, and especially if you were a woman."

True. The Pilgrims broke with established traditions and started their own.

When November comes, we Americans like to hark back to that first Thanksgiving, with Squanto and Captain Shrimp and the gang. Harking back is all very well, but we should be thankful that we were not there at the time.

Hark is a funny word, isn't it? A word not heard that much these days. Except for "Hark, the Herald Angels Sing," which we will all be hearing a lot very soon.

But first, Thanksgiving. Mayflower descendents should consider themselves thankful indeed to be here at all, since their line could well have ended right then and there. The founders of the Plymouth colony starved and froze and died of scurvy and various infectious diseases, which they shared with the natives of the area.

The Pilgrims called themselves Saints and Strangers. The Saints came to escape religious persecution, but the Strangers were seeking opportunity-they must have been pretty desperate-or else they were indentured servants.

Indentured servants worked as slaves until their debt was paid. They could be bought and sold. As an early American colonist wrote, servants were sold like horses all over New England.

The Saints were no day at the beach. They wanted religious freedom for themselves, but not for anyone else. Like Quakers, for example. They didn't hold with foolishness or frolicking.

The Plymouth colony was not the best place for women. The Pilgrim fathers didn't think that women should be educated, and most women of the second generation never learned to read or write. A visitor from England described the women as old before their years, and called them "A tooth-shaken lot." Some bore 13 or 20 children, and only saw 3 or 4 live to grow up. Some women died in childbirth. Under such circumstances, women tend to die young. The men had successive wives and families.

I wonder if the women cooked the deer, fish, clams and oysters, fowl and other food served at the first Thanksgiving, and then cleaned up afterward? Native Americans brought in most of the game, and they might have cooked it outdoors over the fire. Pilgrim men could have played football, or the equivalent, but they didn't have television.

So, whether you are a man or a woman, you should be thankful you are not back at Plymouth Rock with the Pilgrims. I'm sure that Thanksgiving is much more fun these days.

Be thankful, even if you do have to drive across the country, hectically zigzagging back and forth like a dang clusterfly trying to placate your own relatives as well as your in-laws, and, if you're a house guest, trying to stay awake during the day and not make too much noise at night. Also trying to avoid discussing politics and religion and whatever else Aunt Mabel and Uncle Charles are going on about. They both repeat themselves so much they sound like a broken record. They sound like two skipping records, in fact, both playing at the same time, endlessly reiterating their talking points, never listening to each other or anyone else.

Does anyone remember what a skipping record sounds like?

Does anyone still have an Aunt Mabel? Everybody used to have an Aunt Mabel.

It is all right to ask these boring old fuddy duddy questions from now until the New Year, because, as I have previously pointed out, this is the season to hark back.

Family holidays are fraught. Afterward, we can drive home through the dark and sleety evening, or, if the feast was held at our own table, rearrange the contents of the refrigerator so that the cranberry sauce doesn't spill all over everything. Cranberry sauce is something you really don't want to spill, because it is one of those substances, like Jell-O and maple syrup, that are almost impossible to dislodge from kitchen surfaces once they have set up.

Have a good week.



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