This year, we’re going to a pal’s house for Thanksgiving. That’s great because I don’t feel much like cooking this year (even though Thanksgiving is in my top 3 holidays). I had a humdinger of a fall last week and my turkey basting arms are all bruised and sore. This is the first time since we were married that I haven’t made the feast, so I’m really excited to see how someone else does it!
Tisquantum is the real name of the Pauxet Indian history refers to as Squanto.
In 1615, Tisquantum had lived happily near Plymouth. As is the white person’s way, they kidnapped him and sold him into slavery in Spain (with 26 other locals). Eventually Tisuqantum escaped to England and went to return home, only to find that smallpox had taken most everyone he knew.
Three years of smallpox had utterly decimated Plymouth’s Indian population.
Tisquantum returns (after being kidnapped and sold into slavery) to devastation.
Six months later, the Pilgrims arrived.
And. Tisquantum. Helps. Them.
Tisquantum was the whole reason the Pilgrims survived their first winter.
Tisquantum was the whole reason the Pilgrims weren’t at war with the local tribes.
For the Pilgrims’ first harvest the 20 acres of corn grew well (the plants they brought from England failed). Thanks to this bounty, they decided to celebrate with a holiday. They even doubled their weekly individual food ration to get a bonus peck of corn along with the previous peck of meal.
This first Thanksgiving lasted three days. Captain Myles Standish paraded his group of soldiers and they tooted their bugles. They played stool ball, a sort of croquet. And best of all, they invited Native Americans to join in the fun. Massasoit, chief of the Wampanoags, came with ninety guests. They played sports – and competed in races and athletic competitions.
Eventually things would go sour between the Wampanoags and the Pilgrims, but for now, there were races to run. Deer to eat.
For once in their hardscrabble lives, there was an abundance of food. On the menu was venison, duck, goose, eels, corn bread, leeks, watercress, and greens. Like all good guests should, the Indian braves added five deer to the feast. They rounded out the meal with wild grape wine.
Dessert was wild plums and dried berries, as one would expect.
So thanks, Tisquantum, for that help. Without you becoming an advisor to the Pilgrims, without your translating and negotiating, without you there wouldn’t be us. There wouldn’t be this uniquely American holiday rooted in gratitude.
Gratitude that we weren’t sold into slavery,
Gratitude for grocery stores.
Gratitude for decoratively atmospheric fireplaces.
Gratitude for that extra peck of cornmeal.
And especially gratitude for perspective.