I remember being a kid in school and how we’d observe Thanksgiving. We’d trace around our hands on construction paper and cut them out to make turkeys. Maybe we’d have a little bit of dress up as Pilgrims and Native Americans. I remember there being a lot of buckles involved, or feathers, depending on the role. And of course we’d hear about the Pilgrim story, and the first Thanksgiving.
Most of those memories are a little hazy now. I remember learning about the Native Americans and the Europeans sitting down together in harmony. I remember imagining how they were happy to be living on this bountiful land, and to have made friends, and to be prospering. Tables full of food, happy families, exciting Indian neighbors to hang out with.
Okay… well, here’s the truth. The colonists we know as Pilgrims were 66 days at sea, before landing to establish the Plymouth Colony. Imagine 66 days in those conditions… this wasn’t exactly Carnival Cruise Lines. Through the winter most of them stayed on the ship. It was safer than exposure outside, marginally, but the trade-off was still brutal conditions riddled with contagion and scurvy and bitter cold. At the end of winter, half of them had survived.