Ironically, in the year I published Mayflower Chronicles: The Tale of Two Cultures to explore the story behind our traditional Thanksgiving tradition, we will not gather as family for Thanksgiving 2020. Common sense dictates that to ensure we can gather again another year, we do not do so this year. The Thanksgiving story is one part of my family’s history and for that reason, Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday. My ancestors, Elder William and Mary Brewster, were among the 102 Mayflower passengers. Mary was one of only five adult women who survived the first harrowing winter.
Last Thanksgiving fifteen of us traveled from four states and seven communities to gather in a large, three-floor rental unit. For Thanksgiving 2020 we will gather primarily via Zoom. No two Thanksgivings are alike in this family. Many who were around the table in earlier years are now in their final resting places. In my earlier years I traveled through scary snow storms to be with family. In other years I anxiously awaited the arrival of others who did the traveling. Since I will neither travel nor prepare to receive travelers this year, I’ve been reflecting on earlier Thanksgiving-related travels.
England Where It All Began
In 2017 I traveled with granddaughter Sarah, the theatre major, and my brother Bruce to England. On a river cruise along the Thames the tour guide pointed out where they once tied doomed blokes to a pillar in the river, leaving them there to drown as the tide came in. I inserted that gruesome bit of history into a scene in the book.
We rented a car and ventured north to Scrooby, about 50 miles south of York. Scrooby is a small village situated along the old North Road that connected England to Scotland. The Mayflower story starts here; or at least it does for William and Mary Brewster. Before becoming the Pilgrims’ spiritual leader, Elder Brewster was bailiff at Scrooby Manor. In the 1500s, the manor was a thriving estate and rest stop for those traveling between London and Edinburgh.
There is little to see in Scrooby today, but the church where William and Mary married in 1591 is in good condition, still in use, and only a few yards across the lawn from the remnant of the manor.
Cruising to Learn More
In 2018 husband Tom announced he wanted to go on a genealogy research cruise from England to New York. I eagerly agreed, as long as we built in time to go to Cambridge and Leiden in the Netherlands. I wanted to see Cambridge because William Brewster studied briefly at Peterhouse, part of Cambridge University. I wanted to see Leiden because he and Mary lived there from 1608 until they left for North America in 1620.
Three times I’ve been out of the country on Thanksgiving. The first time was the year we took our older daughter Carol to England on a high school graduation gift trip. Fish and chips are no competition for our family’s traditional turkey dinner.
The second time I attending a Spanish language immersion program in Mexico with a friend. We stayed with a family and la Senora tried hard to fix something special for us. The meal definitely had a south-of-the-border flavor. The highlight of the day was a rich, creamy, abundantly chocolate hot drink in town that evening.
The third time I was down under in Australia. I offered to fix a traditional American Thanksgiving meal in exchange for using a friend’s kitchen and appropriating her and her daughter’s help to pull it off. I had to pre-order the turkey and the largest one the butcher could procure was only twelve pounds. We had more than twelve coming for dinner, so we augmented with ham. The Aussie’s were fascinated with this process.
This year there shall be two of us. We will gather with family day via Zoom and be grateful for this option. As my neighbor, who lives alone and refuses to travel right now, keeps assuring her out-of-town daughter. “It’s just one day and one meal.”
But it is a special day and a special meal and it feels very strange not to spend it with others. However, there is still much reason to give thanks. I have a list. I hope you have one or will take time to make one.
Who would dare predict what life shall be like by Thanksgiving 2021? I hope by then children are back in school, business again operate at full capacity, medical personnel work sane schedules, politicians set aside campaigning to focus on governing, and we can once again safely travel to gather with loved ones.
A Thanksgiving Prayer
For Thanksgiving 2020 I offer this prayer attributed to Michael “Tender Heart” Markley, Seaconke Wampanoag, in honor of the Natives who rushed over to check on their English neighbors when they heard gunshots. Upon discovering there were celebrating their first successful harvest, they went to get more food and returned to rejoice with them.
“Let us give thanks to the Creator for all that he gives. The harvest moon has shined its brilliance over our home and now as we store the harvest of our work the Creator gives his sustenance. The Earth will now rest through the coming seasons, storing the energy needed to once again feed our people.”
Amen. Let it be so. Hoping for you a happy and healthy Thanksgiving 2020. How will you observe Thanksgiving this year? I’d love to hear about it.
I’m pleased to announce Mayflower Chronicles: The Tale or Two Cultures is now available in electronic and print form at these places:
Bookshop.org (Supporting local Indie Bookshops)
Audio book coming soon!