Thursday, December 15, 2016

Their Ancestors at Plimouth

William and Maria, before we boarded the Mayflower.

One day, on our trip to Massachusetts, we went back in time, to the lands of the Wampanoag, to the Mayflower (II), to the living history museum, Plimouth Plantation. Then we finished the day by stopping in Duxbury, to see the Myles Standish Burial Ground, and the resting place of John Alden, and his wife, Priscilla Mullins Alden. William and Maria, Max and Alex, too, are decedents of John and Priscilla Alden. This is on their father's side. It's certainly an interesting distinction and it made our visit to Plymouth and the all of the historic places more meaningful, but given that John and Priscilla had ten children, and those children had more, still... well, it's not improbable that many are descendants of the Aldens! (And after skimming the Wikipedia links, I am curious... which Alden is their cousin Longfellow descended from?) History and family ties are fascinating. I didn't mean to delve in so, but maybe our grandchildren, or great-great-greats will stumble across these notes, and be amused, or chagrinned!

Beside the statue of Massasoit, sachem of the Wampanoag Confederacy, at the time of the Mayflower's arrival at Plymouth. He is credited with saving the Pilgrims of Plymouth Colony.

Actually, this is attraction is possibly no less dignified than the rock that is Plymouth Rock.

Never mind.

Let's visit a living history museum. I love a good living history museum, and the one for Plimouth Plantation is very good. We enjoyed the details of daily living in both the Wampanoag village, as well as the Pilgrim's settlement. Their were knowledgable people there, in period dress and effect, and they gave fine examples and demonstrations of crafts, chores, and daily living.

All of my life, the stories of the Pilgrims, of a harvest feast, of early settlers, colonists, the Wampanoag, all of it, was textbook material, novels and poems, movies, imagination, sentimentalized through Thanksgiving, and taken with reserve and sorrow because of the actual plight of the Indigenous people. I find seeing real places, for myself, to be a profound and moving experience. I wanted to see the same kinds of trees, the same riverbanks, the Cape, the shoreline, the horizon, the terrain, where all of these events transpired, where men and women from far lands, met people in their homelands, where they struggled to find common ground, where the early history of this country played out. There were good moments, and good intentions. There were also struggles, failures, betrayal, and heartache. I think we still feel the repercussions and influence of these places, people, and events. I hardly intended to explain, defend, or preach on the whole sordid history of the colonization of the Americas, but I feel remiss in not acknowledging that I know it's a mess, as I also happen to love Thanksgiving, and have a fascination for re-enactment, living-history museums, and the culture heritages of all people.

One thing I love about living-history museums, particularly in the Americas, is how much I recognize... not just in a historic context, but in my own life experience. I have slept in earth and clay rooms, by open fires, and helped my grandmother grind corn for dinner, I have enjoyed the experience of washing clothes by hand, from water drawn from a well, feeding livestock, heating water to cook, to bathe, to clean, and living in a village that you can walk through, on dirt roads, in half an hour, stopping to greet countless familiar faces. Dirt floors, rustic furnishings, cooking over a fire, small rooms, close living with neighbors and nature, self-reliance, and making your own amusements, in these places, like the missions and old towns of California, I always get a bit of homesickness, nostalgia.

We visited the reproduction of the summering village of the Wampanoag. Then walked on to the Pilgrim village...

The fort is at the top, and entrance, of the village. Jennifer and Ken were such great guides, and enthusiastic companions. Nothing beats visiting new places with local folk!

Every house represented the home of an actual passenger on the Mayflower. And the village is full of people carrying on with the typical activities, and daily lives of the Pilgrims.

Since William has made a few reproduction firearms, we were particularly interested in seeing these muskets. And, the clothes, too, for that matter. William sews, and we both had our sights fixed on plackets, hand sewn button holes, top stitching, and waistcoats.

The opportunities to see village life, to communicate with residents, and even to participate in activities make the visit to Plimouth Plantation exceptional. And muskets are very loud!

Really impressive? The lessons and training Ken and William stepped up for, with pikes. I thought it would be a cute photo-opportunity, where they would carry the pike, and learn a few facts and trivia. But this guy put them through a rigorous, thorough drilling, complete with chants, marching, and formations. It was actually quite comprehensive.

This makes me especially happy... seeing my daughter and friend, recalling what a beautiful day it was, how smoothly each hour of our visit went. We were so lucky with the weather, with enjoying off-season quiet, no crowds. And too, just how easy and uncomplicated everything was between us, as though we have been meeting and traveling together hundreds of times, over many years. Kindred spirits. Such a rich fortune of goodness in finding your kindred spirits.

We had lunch at the Museum, and yes, I ordered the Thanksgiving sandwich, which I still feel giddy and indescribably linked to history about, because I am odd. Then we visited the Grist Mill, which was cool, and I want to build a doll house model of a grist mill, because I am odd.

Our last stop of the day was in Duxbury, at the Miles Standish Burying Ground. Only our second cemetery visit of the trip, but probably one of the more solemn ones, as we were seeing family. And truly, every cemetery visit was solemn, though not somber or grim. We found a kind of comfort and familiarity in these places, where we admired the craftsmanship, appreciated the history, acknowledged the long lives, and felt pangs of grief for the sad stories suggested by dates, and names, etched and weathered, in cold stone.

Maria, tending her great-many-great-x grandmother's memorial. She made little twig and stone hearts, one for Priscilla Alden, one for John Alden.

I remember, at the end of this day, after Jennifer's delicious ratatouille and polenta dinner, after visiting and chatting, Maria and I snuggled into bed, and were recounting the day, and we agreed, that even on just this third day of our trip we already felt like we had seen enough and enjoyed ourselves so much, we could feel like we'd had a worthwhile and complete experience, and then we giggled happily in anticipation of how much more we still had to look forward to.


Jennifer said...

These posts bring it all right back, so beautifully and profoundly. Thank you for recording, remembering, and sharing. Simply put, we miss you.

Natalie, the Chickenblogger said...

I want so much to recall all of it, preserve the memories, because we miss you, too, and the best I can do is to treasure the details and events that we enjoyed. It's wonderful to remember how good it all was.