Wednesday, November 24, 2010

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!


Lois Winston said...

Vicki, a few years ago my husband and I detoured over to Plymouth Rock after a stay in Boston. We were both shocked at how small the rock actually is. We were expecting a huge boulder, not something you'd find as ornamentation on someone's front lawn! It really made us wonder about the entire Plymouth Rock episode written in all the history books we read back in school. Fact or fiction?

Lisa Bork said...

Vicki, it's funny how there are some things you just know. Did you save that poem yourself or did your mother save it like mine saved everything?

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!!!

G.M. Malliet said...

I had the same reaction to Plymouth Rock: This is it? We drove all this way to see *this*?

Terri Bischoff said...

I'm just jumping in to wish everyone a happy and safe holiday weekend! I am thankful for you Inkers - past, present and future - for making my job fun and interesting every day. :)

I have to admit to never visiting Plymouth Rock. When I was out East for school, I was stunned when people would ask me when my family came over. I had no idea, still don't. I know I come from hearty German dairy farmer stock. And that is good enough for me!

Darrell James said...

Vicki- It sounds like a great tradition to pass along to your daughter. Thanks for the pilgrimage! Hope you have a great Thanksgiving Holiday.

Keith Raffel said...

Vicki, how great is that, knowing you were meant to be a writer! Happy Thanksgiving.

Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

I was born in Massachusettes and well remember, like Vicki, how the whole pilgrim story dominated my early education of history. I've seen Plymouth Rock (yes, it is small) and still get a tingle of excitement thinking about that small band of folks who traveled here under horrible conditions to find a new life. They were the original illegal immigrants.

Jessie Chandler said...


What a great reminder regarding the reason for the season, as it were. I think tradition is really important (as long as it's a healthy one LOL), and it's so important to remember our roots. We really do have a lot to be thankful for, and sometimes we get so caught up in the day to day that we forget that.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!!

Beth Groundwater said...

Happy Thanksgiving to my fellow Inkspot bloggers, to our editor Terri, and to all our faithful readers!

Vicki Doudera said...

Thanks for the comments. Plimouth Plantation was way better than I remembered -- and they are no longer telling the romanticized version of the Pilgrims' arrival, but what they have researched as a more realistic depiction, along with the story of the Wampanoags and how the English colonists affected that culture.

Lois, the rock story is likely legend. Lisa, you are 100% correct -- my mom saved that poem and others.

Sue Ann, I was thinking the same thing about the Pilgrims. They left England with its Shakespearean plays, pubs and ale, restaurants, shops, and civilization for the wilderness. I was calling it "permanent camping." (You would not believe how smoke filled those little tiny houses are!) (and no s'mores!)

To all -- Happy Thanksgiving!

Kathleen Ernst said...

What a lovely post! Thanks for sharing. I wish everyone a happy thanksgiving!