Originally, the Thanksgiving holiday meant so much more than having your kid’s hand print briefly memorialized through a construction paper turkey on a bulletin board at Graden.
It used to represent more than a bunch of uncles in your family room, sleeping in front of a TV set pretending to care about a Detroit Lions game and blaming tryptophan when they wake up to find they didn’t pitch in during dish- drying time. Many people – but usually the same bunch of whiny, Vietnam-era children who say they like to sportingly represent Satan (or, using their own politically correct vernacular, like to “play devil’s advocate”) – think it’s time to reconsider the fable of The Pilgrims. And why shouldn’t they? They’ve already took Christ out of Christmas, recast Christopher Columbus as the Son of Sam, and doomed Gerald Ford’s re-election hopes.
In this case, however, these freedom haters may be onto something. Upon closer inspection, despite the “two tickets to paradise” romanticism surrounding the holiday, a different story unfolds:
It’s the 1600s and the people of Britain are having some serious work / life balance issues and taxation by the government is out of control. Back then property tax assessments meant some obscure feudal lord would sleep with your wife after sending you off to fight Tunisians on the Iberian peninsula for little or no apparent reason.
In addition, hygiene was a constant problem. There was no Purel(r) or bottled water. In many of the fiefdoms, if you drank the local water you’d pick up some sort of worm that would ceaselessly burrow into your lower intestine, causing your slow, painful death. And if you dared to complain about the water quality, customer service in those days meant some guy in an iron mask would disembowel you for the entertainment of a festival crowd. It was a time that demanded intestinal fortitude.
So, a bunch of guys got together and decided they needed a change of pace. Also, they were a religious cult with a price on their heads. Travel seemed in order, so they packed all of their things into 90 milliliter sacks (they were on the metric system) to get through TSA, hopped on a boat and after a long layover in Holland, finally headed west. In their rush to leave, somebody – and we’re not naming names (Stephen Hopkins) – forgot to bring the binky and Benadryl for Children for Oceanus so the kid constantly kicked the back of Myles Standish’s seat while crying most, if not all, the entire trip.
With no engine to propel them, they spent more days out at sea than they had counted on. They took to wearing the same clothes day after day and they were unable to take a shower or bath due to lack of running water. They watched hopelessly as their food and fruit rotted due to lack of refrigeration.
But enough about Carnival Cruise Lines...let’s get back to a few of the lessons learned from The Pilgrims:
1.) Don’t plume and drive. If your eyes are on the parchment instead of the road, you’re putting not only yourself in jeopardy but other Anglo-Saxon Calvinists, too. If William Bradford paid more attention, maybe he wouldn’t have crashed his Mayflower compact into that Plymouth in the first place.
2.) Lighten up a bit. Some people say it’s “the trip and not the destination” that matters. That’s ludicrous. It implies a learning lesson, epiphany or some sort of highly overrated bonding experience has to happen before you finally make it to Pismo Beach. Leave that stuff to Tommy Boy, Bugs and Daffy or Steve Martin and John Candy. It’s far more enjoyable to travel with people you actually like and, pay their own freight and understand phrases like “comfortable silence,” and “ for medicinal purposes only.”
3.) Whilst Fleeing your Old World Oppressors, Please Refraineth from Oppressing the New World. Sure, The Pilgrims felt all high and mighty when God delivered them to shore and Myles Standish was successfully bludgeoning neighboring Indian chiefs in pre-emptive strikes. But a little scurvy, rickets and rampant starvation suddenly developed their now famous strong desire for Indian food.
Those lessons learned, maybe things aren’t as bad as others would have you believe. All of us have something to be thankful for, no matter what our current conditions are, no matter what the beef was (or wasn’t) between the Indians and Pilgrims hundreds of years ago. Here’s hoping you and yours tucked into some bird and tossed back a few during the Lions game last Thursday.
After all, we owe it to the Indians.