A long time ago the Pilgrims sailed,
To find a brand new land.
They wanted to worship God themselves,
Not by the King's command.
So begins an eight-verse epic poem written by yours truly in November of 1971. I was a fifth grader at Norfolk Elementary School in Massachusetts, steeped so deeply in the lore and legend of the Mayflower, Squanto and Governor Bradford that I felt as if I, too, had planted my shiny black-buckled shoe upon the famous Plymouth Rock.
Growing up in the Bay State it was hard to avoid the Pilgrims. The wide-brimmed hat sported by Pilgrim men (called a capotain) was on signage for our highways, the state flower bore the same name as the Pilgrims' sturdy ship, and Plimouth Plantation, the living history museum replicating a 1627 English village and Wampanoag settlement, was the default class trip for hordes of school children, including those of us from Norfolk Elementary.
It's not surprising that a young girl who feverishly penned poems, short stories, soap operas, and magazine advice columns should turn her attention to the most famous immigrants of all.
What is surprising is what happened after I wrote the poem.
I recall the noisy auditorium of the school, the kids antsy to go home for Thanksgiving break, and me, wearing a plaid dress no doubt, ushered by my teacher up to the front of the assembly. Did I read the poem slowly, emphasizing the dramatic moment when the Pilgrims nearly starved? Or did I hurry through the verses, eager to get back to my seat?
Here is what I do remember: knowing deep in my core that I am a writer. It's a feeling as solid as Plymouth Rock itself, one that reviews, contracts, and sales figures can't touch, and for that I am grateful.
Today I'm taking a little detour with my daughter before joining the rest of my family for the holiday. A pilgrimage, if you will, down the coast to Plymouth. Having been born and raised in Maine, my kids missed out on the whole Pilgrim-related indoctrination.
Fortunately it's a heck of a long ride. Happy Thanksgiving!