Be Delivered From Evil

Thanksgiving Remembered

Maggie Lynch Eisenbarth
November 22, 2023

In October of 1621, in Plymouth, in what is now Massachusetts,  the Pilgrims gave thanks to God, in whom they placed their hope.

The harvest had been good and the Pilgrims found themselves with enough food to put away for the winter. There was corn, fruits and vegetables, fish to be packed in salt, and meat to be cured over smoky fires. The Pilgrims had much to celebrate, they had built homes in the wilderness, they had raised enough crops to keep them alive during the long coming winter, and they were at peace with their Indian neighbors.

The Pilgrim Governor William Bradford proclaimed a day of thanksgiving to be shared by all the colonists and the neighboring Native Americans. They invited Squanto and the other Indians to join them in their celebration. Their chief, Massasoit, and 90 others came to the celebration which lasted for 3 days.

I remember my own childhood Thanksgivings with the anticipation and packing of my bags to travel with my parents and 8 brothers and sisters from our family’s home in Vermont to my grandmother’s home in New York. On the way, we sang our traditional song, “over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house we go…” The station wagon knew the way to carry the family away to grandma’s house of tradition, Trivial Pursuit, turkey legs, too many kids, peas we never ate and fingers in the pie on the cold porch.

I can see my grandmother looking elegant, calm and collected, happy to have her children and her grandchildren in church beside her. Was she ever worried about the turkey?

I can hear us all singing America the Beautiful with my cousin and I in our plaid and paten leather.

This year I am quiet and I am thankful for all, all the love I have in my life, the caring, compassionate, considerate, and kindness (along with all the other adjectives) that surround me in my friends and family. I am thankful for the ancestors of my family tree. I am thankful for the bounty of the earth, from sea to shining sea, for purple mountains’ majesty. For the beauty of the earth and the Indians whom the Pilgrims first encountered at First Encounter Beach, Massachusetts, for helping to keep those pioneers alive at Plymouth, and for having Amazing Grace and mercy on other human beings.

If we can’t recall the whole story about Squanto and his return from Spain as a slave and his ability to speak English and Mr. Bradford and the other Pilgrims, let us at least remember the great giving and forgiving that the Native Americans had. They knew that there is more in peace and understanding then in fighting and conquering.

Let us all be thankful that we will not suffer through our winters, as the pilgrims and the Indians did, because we are rich, rich with food, warmth and security. Rich with more than we ever really need. The sweet peace of recalling the days of old has been broken by my own tribe of 9 children who are now as excited as I was when I was a child.

We know they don’t wonder if the pies will make the trip in the car or if the stuffing is too dry or what to wear or when to start ironing or if they are clean or if the house is in order, neither do they reminisce because they are in the midst of making their own memories.

When our nation was embroiled in the bloody Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln revived what is now an annual tradition of issuing a presidential proclamation of Thanksgiving. President Lincoln asked God to “heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility, and Union.”

In our time of civil strife in this “country ’tis of thee sweet land of liberty”, let us repeat President Lincoln’s prayer on this Thanksgiving Day.