Monday, November 21, 2011

Those Pilgrims

"From my years young in days of youth,
God did make known to me his truth,
And call'd me from my native place
For to enjoy the means of grace.
In wilderness he did me guide,
And in strange lands for me provide.
In fears and wants, through weal and woe,
A pilgrim, passed I to and fro."
William Bradford of Plymouth Colony (1590~1657)

So, it was a work of historical fiction that set me to doing the sort of picture books I've done over these past twenty years. On my first trip to call upon editors, back in the spring of 1985 – how grateful I was not to have wound up dead a dumpster somewhere in tremendously frightening NYC – I got an assignment to do cover art for a new paperback edition of Patricia Clapp's first novel, Constance: A Story of Early Plymouth. Constance Hopkins, the book was about. Fourteen years old she was, the year Constance came to the New World and what a wretched adventure it had to have been. Being a sissypants myself, never would I have set foot on the Good Ship Mayflower. Then again, did Constance (Connie to her friends?) or any of the other womenfolk have any say in the matter? Not likely. And being a timid sort, I was so knocked out by the courage of these seafaring pioneers ("Mayflower-cruising, Jesus freak corn rustlers," according to smartypants Sarah Vowell on the Daily Show last week, in the course of which she calls attention to NY's Evacuation Day, 1783), that I was inspired to do my own book about them. Of course I visited "Plimoth Plantation" in the course of my research. (Do check out this link to the glorious living history operation. Do, if you haven't, pay the place a visit.) Sure I hit the library pretty hard, research-wise, AND I watched MGM's 1952 Technicolor take on the Plymouth Adventure ( I don't care if it DID feature always-good Van Johnson, the great Spencer Tracy and not-so-great-but-boy-howdy-what-a-beauty Gene Tierney - that was one ghastly movie. Ms. Tierney played Wm. Bradford's wife Dorothy, who actually did either fall or jump off the Mayflower into the drink, poor soul. I'm amazed that more of them didn't. It's suggested in the movie that she went overboard rather than give into her lust for Mr. Tracy, who played the ship's master.)
As for other books about the wayfarers:
Pilgrims of Plymouth, by that brilliant Susan E. Goodman. The National Geographic also published the handsome Mayflower 1620: A New Look at a Pilgrim Voyage (Peter Arenstam) and 1621: A New Look at Thanksgiving (Catherine O'Neill Grace). And a blockhead I would be if I didn't mention The Adventurous Life of Myles Standish and the Amazing-But-True Survival Story of Plymouth Colony, 144 pp., "painstakingly written and illustrated" by me, in part in order to tell the Pilgrims' back story and what happened after that so-called First Thanksgiving.

As for Thanksgiving, I count those of you reading this and my fellow INK-ers among my many blessings. And do be singing this (to the tune of We Gather Together...) with your dear ones on Thursday these new lyrics I wrote:

Thank you for turkey and plenty of stuffing

Of giblets, chopped onion and bread, sage, and thyme

And mashed potatoes, marshmallows, sweet potatoes

Hot gravy and carrots and corn and green beans.

Thank you for hot buttered rolls, jam, and jelly

Glass dishes of celery and pickles and beets.

We all will make merry with sauces of cranberry

And if there’s still room, we will have pumpkin pie.

Thank you for friends and our family here gathered

For all of our blessings, protection divine

For these years of living we all are thanks-giving,

For whipped cream & hot coffee & cold pumpkin pie.


Anonymous said...

If a man deceives me once, shame on him; if he deceives me twice, shame on me

Peggy T said...

I like that you have pumpkin pie twice in your song of Thanksgiving. That works for me!
Happy Thanksgiving, Cheryl!

Peggy Thomas