Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Pondering Pilgrims and Family Ties

I've written elsewhere a bit light heartedly about the fact my mother's side of the family is descended from Priscilla Mullins and John Alden, the famous Pilgrim couple who came to America on the Mayflower in 1620, survived the hardships, got married, had ten (maybe eleven children)...of course celebrated that first Thanksgiving Day in 1621, so very long ago.

(And lest you think I'm unduly stuck up over this particular pair of ancestors,  I freely acknowledge that I'm just one of about 1,000,000 people currently alive who can trace the family tree back to John and Priscilla, so I've got perspective, I promise! Although I did get to play Priscilla in my third grade pageant...)

My Dad's family are Irish and arrived on these shores in the 1800's during the potato famine....or so the legend goes...

At any rate, the very unassuming little book pictured at the start of this paragraph has been in my mother's family since 1794, which is still 174 years after the Pilgrims of the Mayflower arrived...but that makes the book 219 years old - pretty respectable, I'd say. No collector's item, the volume shows its age - waterspots, back cover missing.... The book was given to "Stephen" by his grandmother "Mary". (And wow, was her handwriting gorgeous!) I don't know her age at the time but if we assume she was born in the early 1700's herself, we get within 100 years of those Pilgrim ancestors, which is just kind of cool to ponder.

Even more appropriate for this week, the book is an edition of "The Pilgrim's Progress," written by John Bunyan in the 1670's. Mr. Bunyan was a famous Puritan preacher and writer in England and of course the Pilgrims we talk about at Thanksgiving were earlier Puritans who'd left England in search of certain freedoms.

When I was a kid, I read about "The Pilgrim's Progress" in the book  "Little Women" actually. Jo, Meg, Beth and Amy liked to literally re-enact the symbolic journey of this little book's hero as one of the childhood games they played, but as adults they also took the messages in the Bunyan book to heart and tried to live a good, productive life. Because of course "The Pilgrim's Progress" is a famous allegory about an everyman named Christian and his journey from the "City of Destruction" to the "Celestial City.". As a child, I had no idea about the real significance of the book and kept trying to figure out how the snippets of plot the March sisters were talking about could have had anything to do with the people on the Mayflower. But I did think it was extremely cool that we had a copy of that very book in our own family. (Which I must confess I've never read, to this day. Still on that TBR list LOL.)

So this post isn't really about either book, or any other book, but more musing about Thanksgiving and the threads that tie our families together through time, whether it's a fragile old book lovingly passed down from hand to hand through the centuries or some new tradition just started last week. At this time of year I'm always especially grateful for my family and friends, a warm roof overhead, food on the table...books to read, books to write and thankful for Readers to share my stories with.

Wishing you and yours a very Happy Thanksgiving, if it happens to be a holiday observed where you live. If  this day isn't on your particular calendar, I wish you every happiness and people you love to share special moments and good things with in general!

1 comment:

Maureen said...

Wow, that is fantastic for you to have a book passed down in your family for that long. What a treasure! Happy Thanksgiving to you!