Man oh man what I’d give to be back in Plymouth/Cape Cod right now. New York has been sporadically rainy and constantly humid for the past three days and I am absolutely sick of it! It doesn’t feel like fall at all and I’m ready to see some orange and red trees damnit! Sorry, just had to express a small bit of the frustration I have towards New York lately. Anyway, since the city refuses to recognize that it is in fact fall, let’s revisit summer with part two of my Cape Cod and Plymouth, MA trip!
I don’t think I mentioned this in the last post but I went on this trip with one of my mom’s best friends, Janell, one of her best friends from high school Kathy, and Kathy’s boyfriend, Tom. Janell, or Aunt Janell as I call her, is an elegant woman about town who seems to have the best friends in the best places. As an educator, Aunt Janell has traveled the world and has made deep, meaningful friendships along the way. In fact, she and my mother met and became friends on a trip to Africa as the only two women who were traveling alone in their group. Now they’ve been friends for decades! In MA we were staying at Tom’s family home where he and his siblings and cousins spent summers as children. He nostalgically showed me where they used to mark their height, weight and age on the wall in my bedroom. Very sweet.
I awoke out of a dead sleep on my first morning in Plymouth to a sound that was somewhat unfamiliar to me. Bird singing. I couldn’t remember the last time I had felt so at peace. In an effort to shake off one of the best nights of sleep of my life, I stumbled down to the beach to check out the overcast skies and matching gray ocean and see where Janell and Kathy may have wandered off to. I gave up looking for them after about 30 seconds and returned to the house to do some more lounging. A short while later, they returned and we kicked off our day with a hearty breakfast at a local diner in an effort to juice up for our full day of American history.
First stop, Plymouth Rock! Although I played it cool, in my uber nerdy mind I was totally geeked to be in THE Plymouth, Massachusetts. Like Pilgrims. And my 3rd grade Thanksgiving play. And the Mayflower. And my 5th grade textbook. I mean honestly, this was so cool to me because every single student in America learns the fable of the first Thanksgiving and Plymouth Rock but I assume that it’s rare that American’s actually visit where this act of history took place. I had been warned by Kathy to not get too excited by “that little thing” a.k.a. Plymouth Rock, but I was still excited. We walked to the fenced area where I skeptically stared down through metal bars at a rock roughly the size of a large, curled up Golden Retriever with the number 1620 carved into it. Ok, who the hell carved that number? I casually listened to the guide explain the story of the Dutch and English settlers supposedly landing on the rock that was below my feet. It didn’t really look like it was large enough for a boat to actually land on but sure buddy, whatever you say.
We walked over to The Frazier Memorial State Pier to board the Mayflower II (built 1955-1957) – a replica of the original Mayflower that set sail from Plymouth, England in 1620. As I toured the ship and spoke with role players (who amazingly stayed in character the entire time even as I snapped cell phone pictures) acting as crew members, I learned that there were originally 102 passengers on the ship. While the trip started out pleasant, after a period of storms, questions were raised regarding if the ship could complete its journey. Finally on November 9, 1620 Cape Cod was sighted and the Mayflower anchored in what is today Provincetown Harbor. There was a great exhibit that discussed the Pilgrims relationship with the Wampanoag tribe, the original Native American inhabitants of the area. As you can imagine, the Wampanoag tribe was almost completely decimated by the arrival of the Pilgrims due to disease. As a peaceful people, there was no immediate fighting but their immune systems had no defense against even what we now know today as the common cold.
After exploring the Mayflower we visited Plimoth Plantation where we viewed a History Channel produced film about the history of the first Plymouth residents – the Wampanoag Tribe and the immigrant Pilgrims. We left the informative film and headed into the 17th-century English village, a fully functioning recreation of the small farming and maritime community built by the Pilgrims along the shore of Plymouth Harbor. This village also featured role players who did not break character as they explained who they were, where they were from and why they decided to leave their homeland. We spoke with a few residents and explored their gardens, homes, and communal meeting places. We then visited the Wampanoag Homesite, a living history exhibit that featured descendents of the tribe. Although the representatives were dressed in historically accurate clothing, they spoke in modern language as they discussed their heritage.
After a day full of hands on learning we kicked up our heels for a sunset boat ride on Tom’s boat. We cruised the harbor as I listened to Kathy and Janell laugh about the desegregation days in their high school in small town Texas. To celebrate the end of a lovely day, we chowed down on fresh, steamed lobsters and corn. Perfection.