The words “Happy Thanksgiving” have recently echoed over the rivers and through the woods here at Morse Farm and that’s great with me — I love Thanksgiving. It’s the lack of commercialism that really attracts me to this New England-bred holiday and, yes, call me a cussed hypocrite, Christmas tree entrepreneur that I am! It seems that, except for the supermarkets and their gobbling grand pre-Thanksgiving rush, this holiday is much more spiritual than commercial. It’s a time for folks to be together to “break bread,” lots of it, but there’s also room for reflection.... Where did we come from? Who were our forebears, and might one or two of them have been at that first Thanksgiving?
I’ve always been proud of my Morse heritage (my wife says sometimes “boringly so”). In the early 1600s, my ancestors lived right down in “action central,” the Massachusetts Bay area. A recent incident, however, made me a bit less cocky about my ancestry. It was a grey early November day when the sound “bus in the yard” interrupted my brother’s and my syrup canning. Buses are as scarce as empty cornucopias this time of year so I headed quickly out to greet our visitors. Sure enough, 40 folks had “spilled” from a bus and were wandering around our place stretching their legs. They had a “foreign” look about them and as I approached the first one who met my eyes, I asked if my tour would have to be translated.
“No need for that” the woman said with a chuckle. “We’re all from Cape Cod.” I beckoned them into our sugarhouse wondering how I could have been so wrong with my initial assessment. They were very interested in the maple process and courteous in spite of the unheated surroundings. At the end, they gave me a round of applause and all of them went down to our store except for one woman who approached. “We’re all Wampanoag Indians from Cape Cod” she said, “and because of my heritage, I’m particularly interested in any medicinal properties in maple tree syrup.” Her question started me off about antioxidants and trace minerals, but also “opened the door” for dialogue over our common Massachusetts roots. Just before I started “crowing” about my ninth-great grandfather, Samuel Morse, a Puritan who came from England to Massachusetts in 1635, I asked her if there were any bad feelings among her people toward the Pilgrims.
“No” she said. “The Pilgrims were good to my people”. She went on to say that it was the Puritans who were not so nice. “Oops,” I thought, “best stay away from crowin’ about old Sam!”
After the bus left, my conversation with the nice lady led me to do some research on Puritans. What I found out left me wondering if “pride” should apply to that part of my ancestry at all. It seems the Puritans were a very “frustrated” lot, rarely agreeing on anything, and even stubborn enough to risk their lives in small boats on angry seas to get the heck outa the “Dodge” of an England they could no longer tolerate. One definition I read, from a John Manningham in 1605, was particularly scathing: “A Puritan is such a one as loves God with all his soul, but hates his neighbor with all his heart.” Ouch!
There’s plenty of ways to “fall off the deep end” in today’s complex world without adding our forefathers’ transgressions to the mix. I’m sure those Puritans, including my grandpa Samuel Morse, had some redeeming qualities. After all, they were just looking for a better place to practice their beliefs and found it here in America. The good news is that they had “beliefs,” unlike many folks today. My Wampanoag friends sure seemed happy the day they visited. They seem to have “buried the hatchet” over the years and obviously had not been driven from their homeland. They were proud to say “Cape Cod is our home.”
Thanksgiving is now behind us and, for us Morses, a great day it was! I’m thankful for this place where we live and intend to participate in making it better for all. The next holiday, the big one, is coming right up. In the interim, we’ve got a business to carry on which, yes, depends on holiday trade, but I would encourage folks everywhere to hold this thought: For our next holiday, the biggest and best part should be the Peace, not the packages.
Burr Morse lives in East Montpelier.MORE IN Commentary
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