Thanksgiving 2013!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Feasting with people you’re bonded with is the theme of this holiday, hands down. The history of it as a holiday as such definitely ties this communal giving of thanks to much heavier issues… (although it had been a yearly ritual among folks in the New England states for a long time, it was President Lincoln who made it a public moment of thanks giving after some atrocious and terrible times during our Civil War.) Certainly we could all do with not taking very many things for granted. But the roots of this holiday are affirmed in the manner we all know it to be and delight in its being observed. What’s more important in this life than food and the people for and about whom we all care? Not a whole lot. So let’s enjoy the eating and the drinking and above all, each other.

And here’s one for ya to chuck out to your friends and family this holiday, but I gotta introduce it in two ways:

1)  if you’re a friend, you just find the moment you strategically determine would make you look most cool, obviously (ha ha) and announce that you know someone descended from people who were AT the first Thanksgiving, actual Pilgrim Fathers (and Mothers).

2)  if you’re related to me on my mom’s side, then clearly you just say, (at that strategically “cool” moment, of course:  “Ya know, when great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-(that’s TEN greats) gramma and grampa Alden chowed down with Squanto at the very first Thanksgiving, I bet they used real butter!”

I’m sure you’re all howling with laughter… oh, those are groans. Fine fine, without further ado, here’s the chart back to John Alden and Priscilla Mullins, Pilgrim Father and Mother who came over aboard the Mayflower and survived that first, hardcore winter in Massachusetts, and, it’s worth noting, not only the ancestor of me and my six 1st cousins and our 10 children among us, but of probably around a million Americans alive today (though I’d guess a much, much higher number.)

One final important note: being descended from — and knowing the route of descent from notable people of the past, like the Mayflower passengers, is not some special badge that gets its hi-pro glow from some sort of reflected shine of their noteworthiness, at least not for me. What’s remarkable about it, what fires me up about it and why I persist in sharing what I can about it is that it pins us to the events they took part in, enacted etc. It’s the breadcrumb trail that led us to this moment. History and studying genealogy — believe it nor not — for me has nothing whatsoever to do with wanting to live in the past or fetishize any kind of nostalgia; it’s about answering the simple question: Well, how did we get here?

There are stories of 11 people and their mates whose physical existences link me and 16 of my closest relatives to these two Mayflower passengers who gave thanks with their community for food and for community in 1621. It was a harvest meal. Everyone who harvests has had such a meal for a long, long time. (Hell, the Greek story of Demeter and Persephone is about the same thing, really.)

But because these wingnut Pilgrims were basically isolated and saw each other suffering and dying in that cold-ass first winter of 1620-21, that struggle was real enough that when the harvest came, let’s just say that John and Priscilla and everyone else was DAMN grateful to be alive, to have something to eat, to know they’d be able to KEEP having something to eat, and to have each other.

Knowing our connections to the people who led to us connects us also to their pains. And to the triumphs or whatever they accomplished that may very well have been because of those pains.

They made it. And we’ve made it.

And I’m one damn lucky dude to have anybody even reading this! So I thank you!  Check out the chart below and go eat and enjoy the company! Big smiles!


2 thoughts on “Thanksgiving 2013!

  1. Great post! I appreciate the stripped down version of the family tree–much easier for me to follow. If I recall my reading of Nathaniel Philbrick’s Mayflower, the good news about John Alden is that he wasn’t one of the Pilgrim congregants–in other words, not a “true believer.” He was hired by the ship’s captain to be the cooper on the voyage and then chose to remain in Plymouth. Later, he and seven other colonists were given the fur monopoly in return for assuming the debts of the colony. I do love the Thanksgiving tradition and am especially thankful that so far I’ve never experienced the constant dangers that beset our great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandparents–lack of food, occasional bursts of violence, unrelenting cold, backbreaking labor, and pestilence. I’m grateful that they survived those challenges long enough to set in motion the genetic chain that links to me, you, Stella, and Jenner.


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