The first Thanks­giv­ing fam­ily feud

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - LIFE - Jim Mullen The Vil­lage Id­iot Con­tact Jim Mullen at mullen.jim@gmail.com.

His­to­ri­ans all agree that the Pil­grims re­ally did cel­e­brate a first Thanks­giv­ing, but they also agree that it was a one­time event. It wasn’t turned into a yearly cel­e­bra­tion un­til Abra­ham Lin­coln made it of­fi­cial dur­ing the mid­dle of the Civil War, some 250 years later.

New doc­u­ments have come to light that may ex­plain why.

“Never again,” writes John Alden in a let­ter found in a newly dis­cov­ered cache of pa­pers com­posed by the orig­i­nal pas­sen­gers of the Mayflower.

“Six long hours we have spent look­ing at the hind end of a horse on the overly crowded road to the house of my par­ents and lo, for what? To see my brother with whom I barely speak, and his harpy wyfe who so dis­re­specteth me and mine in a back­handed way?

“He starteth act­ing like a wee childe im­me­di­ately, from the time we stepped from the car­riage un­til the time we have de­parted. He bringeth up small jeal­ousies and grievances from our youth long ago. His un­hap­pi­ness is like a con­ta­gion, a pus­tule that never heals. ‘Let­teth it go and get­teth a life,’ he has made me wish to scream, and more times than one. We should be spend­ing less time to­gether, not more, me­thinks.

“One un­pleas­antry fol­lows an­other as I suf­fer my un­cles and aunts to run­neth on and on about my cousins — how well they are do­ing, how much money they are send­ing to their par­ents, what comely grand­chil­dren they have pro­duced. Yet I knoweth these same cousins. They are base and low and would soil them­selves if they were ever made to do a day’s work. They wish their par­ents dead and spend their days mak­ing plans to squan­der their in­her­i­tance in a warmer clime. Their small chil­dren know not the word ‘no’ and un­der­standeth not its mean­ing. They run­neth around and screameth all day when peace and quiet are called for. The spawn of Satan him­self would make more pleas­ant com­pany.

“And my hand­some wyfe cares not for the way my mother pre­pareth the meal. ‘She useth not oys­ters in the fowl’s stuff­ing,’ she rails at me. ‘She put­teth not the bird in a pa­per bag in the hearth.’ It maketh me fa­tigued to hear such words. Yet Priscilla’s own stuff­ing would not win­neth any praise even in the land of my birth, where they can taste not the dif­fer­ence be­tween condi­ment and com­poste. She knoweth not, but se­cretly I giveth my por­tions of her bounty to the hound be­neath the ta­ble. It tea­cheth him not to beg.

“My wyfe speaks ill of none, yet I can tell from the bear­ing of her body that she would rather be duck­ing witches on a cold day in De­cem­ber than be in the com­pany of my fam­ily and their off­spring. As if her fam­ily be a bar­rel of salted fish. Her sis­ters make it well known that their spouses buy them more kitchen tools than I, and that the corn from their la­bor is big­ger and bet­ter than that of my own. They maketh my head to hurt. Were they not aboard, the jour­ney of the Mayflower could have been as a fun ship. With them, it was the hate boat. Had the voyage lasted but one week more, t’was they who were go­ing over the side or t’was I.

“It oc­curred to me sud­denly that we may have left the wood stove on at home. Priscilla vol­un­teered that it may be true, as she had of­ten no­ticed my for­get­ful habits. Hap­pily, we fled the fes­tiv­i­ties. On the road home, we spoke not to each other for many hours.

“‘Let us hope we can do this again next year,’ at last I spoke. It got a hearty laugh, as Priscilla knew I was in perfect jest. In truth, you could not make us do that again were four hun­dred years to pass. And for that, we gave thanks.”

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