I remember being in a play about the Pilgrims. It was put on by on Miss Kaiser’s fourth grade social studies class. Initially, I had wanted to play the role of Squanto’s daughter (the Wampanoag chief), but it was decided that considering my pallid complexion, I needed to play somebody who’d spent six months below deck on the Mayflower.
We were all excited about the play. Our mothers made us costumes. The Pilgrim girls wore long skirts and bonnets; boys wore knickers and black poster-board hats. The Indians wore flannel buckskins with pinking-sheared fringes and construction paper feathers in their hair. We practiced our lines and learned the songs that our music teacher twinkled out on the cafeteria piano.
Finally opening night came. We were ready. The first scene was the interior of a ship. We were tossed to and fro by a terrible storm. I had a line in that scene. I yelled, in a worried voice, “We’re taking on water!” (It was possibly my greatest moment in theater). But our leader Myles Standish, wearing black Sunday shoes with aluminum foil buckles attached to the tops, calmed his people and we all knelt to pray for a safe voyage.
Next scene, the ship landed safety on the beach. There was great rejoicing. Enter Squanto, leader of the Wampanoag, adorned with black yarn braids and a handsome war bonnet (probably bought for him at a souvenir shop in Cherokee, N.C). Squanto, with noble bearing, warmly welcomed us to the neighborhood.
Cut to a winter scene. We were starting to run out of food — the wolf was at the door. Enter again, Squanto, leader of the Wampanoag, and his people, carrying the fruits of their fields, the nuts of their forests, and a plump papier mache turkey with chipped brown paint. With certain death averted, the Pilgrims threw a feast to celebrate their salvation from destruction and the goodness of their new neighbors.
All us kids loved being a part of that story. It had great elements — pilgrims who remained faithful in the face of fear and obstacles — neighbors helping neighbors overcome hardship — the great love story of Captain John Smith and the raven-haired maiden Pocahontas (I was actually in fifth grade before I figured out those were two different stories). But more than adventure, more than victory over hardship, my favorite part of the story was the thankfulness of the Pilgrims. The odds had been against them, but they had survived. And although they had a lot to celebrate, before they dug into their turkey feast they stopped to give thanks.
I remember, at the end of our play, we moved to the front of the stage, Pilgrims and Indians all intermingled. We faced the audience and joined hands as the piano began to twinkle from back stage, and we all sang-shouted in a joyful cacophony, “We gAAAther together to AAAAsk the Lord’s blessing.”
As our voices were raised together, I imagined those new Americans, those hungry and scared immigrants, raising their thankful voices — and it made me sing all the louder. I remember we rang the rafters in our old macaroni-and-cheese/Pine-Sol smelling cafeteria. I remember it to this day.
This Sunday night, there will be an opportunity for all the children of our community to come together and raise their voices in thankful song. Everyone is invited — all churches, all faiths to come to the Community Thanksgiving Celebration.
For the past 20 years, this Thanksgiving celebration has been held in many places — at Tabernacle Baptist, First Methodist, First Baptist and most recently at St Margaret’s Episcopal Church. It’s a time we can all pitch in a little, together, to make a big difference in our communities.
All offerings received at the Thanksgiving celebration will be contributed to the Ted McCollum Fund, so our community can offer a hot meal, a night’s lodging or even gas for someone’s vehicle if they find themselves in need of assistance while they’re traveling through our area.
Also, the Girl Scouts will be taking up canned goods to aid in the Carroll County Soup Kitchen with their Christmas box drive. So if you can join us on Sunday night, please bring a can of food with you.
The Carrollton Presbyterian Church on Maple Street hosts the Community Thanksgiving Celebration this year. The service begins at six o’clock, but if your kids (grades 1-8) want to participate in the Community Children’s Choir, you can drop them off at the church at 4:30 and wander around on the square until the celebration begins.
So, if Sunday night rolls around and you’re feeling thankful for the blessings in your life, or even if you don’t feel thankful at all, you’re welcome to come and join your community in giving and in prayer, and in the hearing the joyful cacophony of our children when they ring the rafters in song.
Gentry, a Carroll County resident, writes a weekly column for the Times-Georgian.