A Thanksgiving Pageant
Julian finished eating first, anxious to get the festivities underway. He passed around some dialogue he had written for a dramatization of the pilgrims first harvest thanks in 1621. "Ruel, you can be John Alden, Alfred, the Elder Brewster."
"Must I?" Ruel interrupted.
"Yes, we can’t do this right unless everyone participates. Alfred,” he continued, "you are Elder Brewster."
"What must I do?" Alfred asked.
"You just say a blessing.” Alfred looked at Ruel with disinterest and shook his head.
"Aurelia, you are Priscilla Alden, - "
"Julian, you know I disapprove of acting," she said.
"Oh, for crying out loud," shouted Julian.
"Now, now children," said Mother.
"Well, I’ll play Priscilla Alden just this once, but only because she was a real live person."
"Who do we get to play, Julian?" asked Austin.
"You and Milton and Virgie are Indians."
"What do we do?" asked Virgil.
"You don't do anything, you just play Indians."
"Good,” said Milton. "I’ll play an Indian eating some more pumpkin pie," and he helped himself to another piece. So did Austin.
Virgil sat by the fireplace roasting apples and cracking open hickory nuts on the hearthstone with a mallet. "And I'll play an Indian cracking nuts," he said.
"Who do I play?" asked Laura.
"You play an Indian too," said Julian.
"But I want an important part," she said.
"I didn't write anything for you to say," he answered.
"Well then, I’ll make something up,” she said. "If you want me in the play, then I'm just going to have to play someone important and have a lot to say.” She raised her little button nose in the air and folded her arms across her chest. "So there!"
"For crying out loud, Mother," implored Julian.
"Who would you like to be Laura?" asked Mother.
"Pocahontas? She wasn't at Plymouth Colony, she was in Virginia,” laughed Julian.
"I don’t care,” was her answer. "I want to play someone important."
Julian let out a long sigh. "All right," he said.
"And who do you get to play, as if I couldn't guess?” queried his sister, Aurelia.
"I shall play Uncle John Carver," he answered officiously.
"Sure, you get the good part," they all jeered.
"Well, it’s the most important part and someone has to do it who can act well,” he said. "Anyway, I wrote the play, I can give myself any part I want."
"I like my part,” said Virgil digging the meat out of a nut. "Am I a good actor, Julian?" Julian didn't answer.
Moses sipped a mug of hard cider while the children commemorated the first harvest thanks. He could appreciate the Pilgrims suffering through that first bitter winter that decimated their ranks. One can be too close to paradise, he thought. Paradise, he knew, could kill. Winter in this Eden could be a difficult taskmaster. But his winters would soon be over, he knew, and summer would soon wrap him in her eternal embrace.
He began to doze, welcoming sleep and dreams of summer.
* * * * * * *
"Did you like the play, Grampa?” Julian asked.
Moses opened his eyes and smiled. "It was wonderful," he said.
"Is that the way it really happened, Grampa?" Virgil asked.
"That’s the way your great grandfather Jonathan Carver said it happened. I heard him tell it myself, and he should have known. His grandfather’s uncle was John Carver, the leader and backer of the Mayflower expedition," Moses said.
"We're part of history, then, aren’t we?” said Julian. He didn't expect an answer. He was speaking rhetorically. "We really are."
"Your ancestors are the history of this nation,” said Moses. Long before Columbus, there were Gunns in the new world. Almost one hundred years before Columbus, a Gunn sailed to these shores from the highlands of Scotland with Henry Sinclair, Jarl of Orkney, and long before him there were our Norse Viking ancestors."
"Why didn't they stay, Grampa?" asked Julian.
"One can only guess, son, and my guess is that they were met by too many hostile Indians, and while they were fierce fighters themselves, they were too few in number to settle the wilderness against those odds. But the first Gunn, now him we know about."
"What proof have we, Grampa?" asked Ruel.
"He's still here," said Moses.
"What?" Ruel said.
"That's right. He lies buried near Westford. His grave is clearly marked with the Gunn coat of arms chiseled in stone above the place where he rests. Make no mistake about it and defend his legacy as long as you have any pride in your heritage.” Moses leaned forward in his chair and looked them each solemnly in the eye. "There lies a Gunn!"
Aurelia broke the spell. Anymore said would be anticlimactic. "Girls, help me with the dishes."
"But I want to listen to Grampa's stories," Laura protested.
"You can listen while we clean up," her mother said.
"Well, what kind of a story would you like to hear?” Moses asked. "A story about the rebellion or Indians or Carver's search for the Northwest Passage?"
"Indians!” said Virgil, sweeping his nutshells into the fire and moving over to the table. "Tell us about the massacre, Grampa."
"Which one?" Moses asked. "Deerfield or Fort William Henry?"
"Fort William Henry," said Julian.
They had heard the story many times, but it never bored them. It was so frightening in its magnitude, its brutal reality and closeness that they savored every word that flowed from Moses’ lips. Fortunately for the family, Moses had a keen sense of history. He related the account of the massacre accurately and consistently every time he told the story, exactly the way Jonathan Carver had told it himself. The Captain had been fond of telling this spine tingling episode of history, more horrific than any writer of fiction could improvise. Among his eager listeners in Montague had been a young Moses Gunn, who would one day after the Captain's death, marry his daughter Olive and retell the tale.
"Your Grandma Olive was only two weeks old when her father left to defend the Colonies against the French and Indians descending through the Champlain Valley,” Moses began. He leaned forward to get the rapt attention of the children.
"These are his own words. This is exactly the way it happened.”
Go to Chapter Eleven.
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