I’ve always felt a special connection to Thanksgiving. There is just something so special about devoting time to being Thankful for all that we have in our life. The preparation of a big meal, done lovingly by family members. A warm house with the noise of young cousins. The start of a magical holiday season, that in my mind does not start until the day after! Yes, I am one of those true Thanksgiving believers that Christmas needs to wait it’s turn! This could all be because well, I truly do have a connection to this holiday, I was at the first Thanksgiving.
Now obviously doing the math, it is impossible for me to be alive since 1621. Being a history lover, I am lucky to have a genealogy lover in my family, my mother. She has traced many lines of our family back to our roots. My father’s mother’s side just happens to descend from William and Susanna White’s son Resolved White. They were 3 of the 102 passengers aboard the Mayflower, but not members of the 37 people of the Leiden congregation. William an English merchant staked his life on bringing his family to the New World. He was unfortunately one of the 45 that lost their life that first winter. I can’t imagine the thought process that went into making the decision to come to the New World.
As I look at the list of family names, it is Susanna’s that I applaud. She made the journey on the Mayflower with 5 year old Resolved and 6 months pregnant. I don’t know about you, but spending the whole third trimester of pregnancy jostled aboard the Mayflower took a strength I am sure none of us can fathom. Mere days after anchoring in the harbor of Cape Cod she gave birth to Peregrine, the first child born to the immigrants in America. Remarkably, Susanna, Resolved and Peregrine all made it through the first winter. She was one of the only 4 women to survive. I can’t imagine the hardships faced and all that she endured.
While history will probably never truly know all the details of the story of the first Thanksgiving, I appreciate the fact that we can celebrate that first feast. When the Mayflower pilgrims and the Wampanoag sat down for the first Thanksgiving in 1621, it wasn’t probably that big of a deal. Likely, it was just a routine English harvest celebration, that their neighbors and allies joined in. And also very likely looked nothing like the depiction above. The menu for certain looked nothing like it does today. The only item that history notes for sure, was the 5 deer that the Wampanoag brought to share. I am sure no matter what the settlers did manage to harvest and enjoy, was completely celebrated. As for the first time they had provisions going into the winter. The work that took to provide that bounty is in no doubt a feat that deserves celebration. More notable—and less remembered—was the peace treaty that the parties established seven months earlier, which lasted for 50 years. Obviously later history paints a true brutal picture of relationships with Native Americans, but this first generation I think can truly celebrate the alliance that was formed. Without it, the immigrants would not have likely survived.
So as you enjoy your meal today, that was likely harvested from the local grocery story, (thank goodness and thanks to all our farmers across the country) take a minute to think of all those that were present at the first Thanksgiving. Immigrants and Native Americans alike. Many of us can trace our American lines back to members of the Mayflower, and say I was at the First Thanksgiving. And today I will celebrate Susanna White, my 10th Great Grandmother.