Turkeys and stuffing, food for all. Football games and recent family reconnections.
The oldest of American holidays is upon us...and for the most part, we are ignorant of what the holiday meant to the ancients of our North American days...and maybe event to us today, aren't we?
No, I'm not talking about the Pilgrim stick-figures of our youth...or the hyper-religious forced connections that tend to paint every Pilgrim as a "Godly" person. Instead, I'm just interested in thinking out loud and asking questions about thanksgiving and young families who came into existence because of the Mayflower's docking in 1620.
So, why remember the day at all? History shows a full trend why we celebrate it as a nation.
But if the day is for giving thanks TODAY...it therefore begs two questions: to whom do we offer such thanks and why should we offer such thanks....at all?
First question: to whom do we give thanks? The Indians? Squanto? Governor Bradford? Maybe...but REALLY whom do we thank? God's name keeps popping up in the records of the day. Those young guys and gals from the Mayflower seemed to thank him a lot and often, out loud (or in writings).
Am I making it up? Well, no. Documents of the time show things like this:
(W)hile the Pilgrims enjoyed times of prosperity for which they thanked God, they also suffered extreme hardships. In fact, in 1623 they experienced an extended and prolonged drought. Knowing that without a change in the weather there would be no harvest and the winter would be filled with death and starvation, Governor Bradford called the Pilgrims to a time of prayer and fasting to seek God’s direct intervention. Significantly, shortly after that time of prayer – and to the great amazement of the Indian who witnessed the scene – clouds appeared in the sky and a gentle and steady rain began to fall. As Governor Bradford explained:
It came without either wind or thunder or any violence, and by degrees in abundance, as that ye earth was thoroughly wet and soaked therewith, which did so apparently revive and quicken ye decayed corn and other fruits as was wonderful to see, and made ye Indians astonished to behold; and afterwards the Lord sent them such seasonable showers, with interchange of fair warm weather as, through His blessing, caused a fruitful and liberal harvest, to their no small comfort and rejoicing. 12
Making it personal.
But all that aside, the second question I raised earlier is "why"?
For me the events are close and fairly personal. My Great-(x12)Grandfather (John Howland) and Great-(x12)Grandmother (Elizabeth Tilley Howland) were there actually at the first Thanskgiving in 1620. No kidding....
Because they independently came across on the Mayflower and wed after the first year...my family "lives" today. Because John Howland was the only Pilgrim washed overboard and rescued, I exist. Because Elizabeth was a girl when she arrived and had the horrible experience of witnessing the deaths of her parents (Mr. and Mrs John Tilley) during that first year AND DID NOT GIVE UP by returning to England, I am alive.
So, I am thankful both for great-g-g-grandparents who never gave up...and for Elizabeth's parents who gave up EVERYTHING they had, including their lives, so that New England could have their progeny, their family...from whom the Mansfields of Idaho came into existence AND are a family today, celebrating Thanksgiving...giving thanks to God for his providential hand on them in 1620 and on us in 2008.
who gave birth to James who gave birth to
Thankful who gave birth...
to James...to George...to Martha...to George...to James...to Dorothy...
to Bill Mansfield...to Dennis Mansfield...to Nate, Colin and Meg...and now to little 10 month old, CBR.
Happy Thanksgiving from a long line of thankful people...Den