It’s been many a year — 387 of
them, to be exact — since Thanksgiving, as we North Americans know it,
was first celebrated by Plymouth Colony in what today is Plymouth, Massachusetts,
home to Plymouth Rock and all things Pilgrim-ish.
Those early English settlers with the
funny black conical hats who were fleeing religious persecution in England and,
later, Holland, were no doubt grateful for so much that first Thanksgiving
— first that they had even survived the journey and then managed to live
an entire year after their good ship Mayflower, which has been as mythologized
as the Pilgrims themselves, landed in 1620. Also, we can only suppose the depth
of their gratitude for having found the freedom and free land to live as they
Today, this iconic horseshoe-shaped
peninsula surrounding Cape Cod Bay, along with the island sitting a few miles
south that holds Martha’s Vineyard, has become equally mythologized, partly for
reasons historical and patriotic and partly for its fame as a summer colony for
the elite, especially America’s.
Be they politicos, celebrities,
artistes or just plain rich, people like the Clintons, the Kennedys, Paul
McCartney, David Letterman and William Styron have also presumably found a
state of grace in the simple Atlantic-coast beauty and low-key lifestyle this
historic area engenders. They dock their fine sailboats, and buy up fine Cape
Cod or Victorian beauties or ornate red brick and white-colonnaded Colonial
Revivalist homes, and return year after year.
Oxford Dictionary of Word
, the words “grace,” “grateful,”
“gratitude” and even “gratuity” all come from the same root, the Latin
meaning “pleasing” or “thankful.” “Thanks,” on the other
hand, comes from the Old English
the plural of
, which meant
“kindly thought or gratitude,” which is Germanic in origin and related to the
, the German Dank and,
surprisingly, the English
When I imagine those early settlers
in Plymouth and compare them to us today it strikes me that
is pretty much M. I. A. in contemporary life.
Other than the occasional “thank
goodness” moment when a guy running a red light whizzes past the front bumper
of your car, or a sigh of relief when your mammogram results come back
negative, or that more people weren’t hurt, or hurt more badly, in that La
Bocca explosion, most of us seldom enter a deep state of gratitude.