Thanksgiving 1621: Even Then, No Help With Dishes

Bruce McCall is a frequent contributor to the New Yorker

Plimoth Colony, Thursday, the 25th Inst., November, 1621:

Dear Diary:

Every year on this date hereafter, all in the Colony vow to give Thanks to the Almighty, that such a Debacle as witnessed today shall never come to pass again!

Capt. Standish hath only just left these Precincts, besotted by a surfiet of Game, Cran, Corn Pudding and most of all by serial flagons of Mead, made of the grains of the fields where dwell the Wild Turkeys. It emboldeth the Captain, and make him Red in the face; he draghteth all Men for a game of Kick-the-Pig in the pasture, one side the "Lions," the other the "Bears," and, leading the "Lions," outwitteth the hapless "Bear" defenders by his Inspiration, which he credits to Our Lord, and newly nameth the game Hurl-the-Pig, in honor of his Aerial Attack invention.

Afterward, he tells the same Indian War stories as last year; he doth with zeal chase poor Priscilla around the Feast table; he collapseth at last from his exertions, facing down into his own fancy mashed Potatoes, and all gave Thanks for this to the Almighty, notwithstanding the wasting of His precious Harvest!

The impecunious Cousins from the Weston Colony "happen, happily, to be just passing by," a most curious Accident, repeated each year to the Day. She bringeth the usual Dumplings, which all take to be a new kind of musket ball, yet harder; the Cousin with the runaway left Eye Ball, named Seth, ogleth Pocahontas the afternoon long, till the nervous Heathen Princess, fearing the Evil Eye, springeth from the Feast table, screaming, and collideth directly against the settee by the Chimney and its Occupant, Governor Bradford, Himself, awakening him from his Prayer Sleep so of a sudden that he spluttereth "What the F---!", whereupon the twin spinster Misses Pinchwhistel, quietly knitting in the corner, together swoon and fall backward in such a tumult of Furniture and Yarn, that the Cat entangleth itself at the Throat and near Strangleth, whilst the Children add to the infernal Din with their lamentations. This awaketh Capt. Standish, who, thinking himself attacking the Wampanoags, hurleth a Gravy Boat he taketh for a Grenade Bomb, until it striketh Pastor Joygood, who smiteth, by reflexive Instinct, his own Dear Mother-in-Law, and is set upon most rudely by his Wife and her Brothers.

It is at this sensitive Juncture that a knock is heard at the Door, heralding a visiting Motley of the Indians, coming "for seconds;" their Chief, Massasoit, a Savage of no Tact, exclaiming at the superiority of the Feast just now partaken by his Tribe down the road; all belch in Proof, and demand Rocky Road Fudge ice cream covered in Rum as a sweet. Major Wilberforce, alack, has just devoured the last of it, and the Indians begin to howl and Cry, until all must empty their Purses of beads and silver so that they cease.

Leaving by the Window, the Indians do shatter much rare Glass, but by admitting the chill winds of November, perform the Service of awakening from their post-repast Slumbers most of the Assembled. Much stretching, yawning and taking on of outer coats and hats and observations on what the time has gotten to be.

Soon, all are at last gone from this Place. Yet not a Soul has stayed, to help with the Dishes.

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