Twelve Adventures: #12 – Thanksgiving With the Pilgrims

So here we are in November of 2016, and while I have been avoiding social media and this very site, I have not stopped having adventures. We said we were going to have twelve, and twelve is what we were going to have, no matter how many unconstitutional parades tried to get in our way. But I should back up.

“How would you kids like to go back in time for our next adventure?”

“Yes! Yes! Yes! Hooray!!!!”

And it was settled. Trusting in Bear to provide his magic portals at just the right time, we all squished into the car after work on Friday for a four hour drive to the most magical place in the world: a hotel with a pool. Honestly, we could have just stayed in our own town if we were in a hotel with a pool. It is by far the best part of any adventure, according to the children. It is the first thing they ask about when adventures are suggested, and it is all they talk about while packing, traveling, and arriving. Want to have 12 easy adventures with your own kids? Find 12 local hotels with pools. Trust me.

Well, the pool was terrible. It was freezing cold, and the “hot tub” was more like a bathtub, only I like my bathtubs hotter than that. Tenor Mom and I bowed out quickly from the watery fun, although the children did not seem to mind at all. They would have splashed around all day. Except no! We had to leave to see the Mayflower!

The Mayflower was gone. When will I learned to start checking these things online? Despite their website assuring me that the Mayflower II would be harbored in Plymouth until the weekend after Thanksgiving, their Facebook page (which I could not check easily because I deleted the app) told us that two weeks prior it had embarked on a journey to Mystic Seaport for renovation and repair. There went our plan for the morning. At least we still had a harvest dinner to look forward over at Plimoth Plantation. It was as we wandered over to have a look at Plymouth Rock that we noticed the police officers closing off the roads. All of the roads.

Plymouth Rock

When I asked what was going on I was told that there was a huge parade and the roads would be closed off for the next 3 hours or more. And there was no way out of town. But on the other hand, there was a huge parade! The world’s only historically accurate chronological parade! And we had stumbled into it by accident! This was going to be fun! (That was ironic foreshadowing)

Plymouth Rock was cool, for a rock I guess. And cooler still was the carpenter’s union, who had set up a station where kids could construct their own toolboxes. This was super fun, involved hammers and nails, and we loved it. Thanks, carpenter’s union! We took our fried dough and our wooden boxes up the hill where we settled in for three hours of fun and wholesome American entertainment. (See previous parentheses)

Kids Toolboxes

We were at the end of the parade route so, like the Macy’s parade, there were singers and entertainers there to amuse us until the actual parade arrived. The first guy up was a country singer, whose opening verse to his opening song included the line “There is no separation, we’re one Nation under Him.” Yes, this was was advocating for no separation of church and state. At what was supposedly a very “American” celebration. I felt sick. He then moved on to several other songs about Jesus and America, as if Christ were one of the founding fathers. I wasn’t quite ready to shout “We have no king but Caesar!” but as a Christian myself, I was appalled at the unconstitutional, nationalistic theology being spouted in what was supposedly one of the more liberal states. But at least he only sang three songs. Then it was time for the gospel group.

The “gospel” group consisted of five aging white guys who took classic do-wop songs and replaced the words “Baby” and “Darling” with “Jesus.” They opened with “Stand By Me,” and kept every word the same, except for the chorus where they sang “So Jesus, Jesus, Stand by Me!” Now, I don’t want to be a hypocrite here, because I am a big fan of taking popular music and rejiggering it for the church, but all I could think of was that South Park episode where Cartman becomes a Christian singer by replacing all of the babies and darlings with Jesus. This was just lazy parody, and I couldn’t help but laugh. Loudly. Daggers came from every eye around me, and I picked up the kids and told them we were leaving. Except of course that we weren’t.

We tried every side street and every alley, every lane, road, drive, and boulevard. There was no way out of Plymouth, MA. So we drove to as far back in the parade route as we could get, drove right up to the lawn chairs and blankets in front of us, and parked in the middle of the road. As soon as that parade ended, we were out of there. And you know what? It was a pretty good parade when we weren’t freezing cold on a hill by the water, and away from the religious-right-esque entertainment. We had a good time. And then we went to Target. Because America.

Plymouth Parade

After we left Target, Bear worked his magic in just the right way, because we were suddenly transported back in time to the Pilgrim village of Plimoth in the year 1627. I don’t know if you have ever traveled back in time, but I would highly recommend it. It was incredible.

The first thing we came across was a Native American settlement, where we were invited to watch as the tribe members made food, told stories, kept fires, and burned out the middle of what would become a boat. It was everything Ruby could ever have wished for, and if we could have figured out a way to let her stay there for a week, we would have. But we had to keep moving, on to the English settlement.

Native Americans at Plimoth Plantation

The Pilgrim village was exactly what one might have expected. The people were friendly and knowledgeable, and the houses were small and dimly lit. Still, there was tangible relief in the air at having gotten out of England and Holland and having the freedom to worship in their own way. They were not trying to force their ways onto anyone else, although clearly all were welcome. Oh, and you had to attend church on Sunday all day by law, sure, but it didn’t mean you couldn’t still go to temple on Friday night for Shabbat. Plus it was 400 years ago.

Plimoth Plantation Thanksgiving Pilgrims

You may not know this about me, but I am descended from the Pilgrims. My paternal grandmother traced all of the history (and passed it down to me) so she could join the Mayflower society, and I happen to know that I am descended from famous Mayflower participants Richard and Thomas Cushman (father and son, not super progressive power couple). On a whim, my wife asked one of the women we were speaking to about the Cushmans, and the woman smiled and said “You mean young Tom Cushman? He should be up top o’ the hill working the fire. A young lad, wearing blue today I believe.” And she was right.

“Tom?” I asked as I approached the young man. “Tom Cushman?”

“Aye,” he smiled, “and you might be?”

“I’m a…distant relative,” I replied, not wanting to confuse him with talk of time travel.

“Cousin!” he exclaimed, and from there on we were fast friends. We discussed his father and the family and, though he had never heard of “Vermont,” he was aware of the river running through the French settlement of Quebec flowing into the lake and the wild, untamed lands to the south. In my mind I wondered if he were perhaps an actor pretending to be a Pilgrim, but no, it was too real. He knew too much. We were definitely in the distant past.

Pilgrim Thomas Cushman

I could tell we were in the past by the reactions to Edward describing a car. “A carriage made of metal? How odd…” Or when Ruby tried to explain a Big Mac to the local church leader. “A piece of bread with meat of beef and a salad, followed by another piece of bread? But why would anyone eat a cow? Where would you get your milk? Who would pull your plows?” We sat in one woman’s house for half an hour, discussing her life and home. She even guessed Edward’s name! Although judging from the signatures on the Mayflower Compact, most people were named Edward back then.

The day culminated in a harvest dinner, complete with (mostly) authentic food, and no forks at all. There was singing and dancing, and my great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandfather Thomas Cushman made a special point of returning to our table frequently to check in on his “cousin.” We ate turkey and pumpkin, mussels and cabbage, and drank Ciderkin and water. I was brilliant enough to bring a Coke with me from the future, although I didn’t let the Pilgrims see it. They did not need any caffeine.

Pilgrims and Cows

As a final adventure of the year, it was a huge success. We learned, we laughed, we ate, and there was a hotel with a pool. You really couldn’t ask for much more, other than not being trapped by military bands for three hours. And even that worked out in the end. And you know, the year isn’t over yet. We still have another month. Do we dare shoot for lucky thirteen? I’ll keep you posted.

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Posted in Parade, Religion, Thanksgiving.

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