Victorian Cut-out Theatre: "A Purity of Spirit"

When I was in first grade, we learned about the pilgrims by way of working with needle and thread, churning butter, grinding corn meal and listening to stories read to us by our teacher. Looking back, this was probably a great deal more exciting than what kids do now. We had worksheets too, but these activities had a way of lighting our imaginations and were meant to give us a taste of what pilgrim life was like. All of these activities lead up to a "thanksgiving feast", where we were to partake in the fruit of our toils. Much to our surprise, everything we ate tasted like shit. At the time, I assumed it was because we were all awful cooks, but perhaps the more likely scenario is that the modern conveniences allotted to us now, i.e. salt and pepper, make things taste good.

I remember having to wear a paper pilgrim hat and being disappointed, because I wanted to wear the construction paper feathers of the Indians. We were split into two groups and unfortunately, Plymouth rock landed on me. According to Walker family history, we were never pilgrims. We found ourselves forcibly moved from Scotland to Ireland in hopes that this would squelch our hatred for England. Apparently our English enemies had about as good a grasp of culture and geography as I did in the first grade, because their plan didn't work, and it wasn't long before we were forcibly moved from Ireland to the colonies as slaves and indentured servants. I'd like to think that, even at six years old, I subconsciously realized that I had nothing in common with the dour people that made up Plymouth township and that the pilgrim hat I was wearing was just a construction paper shackle that tied me to my British masters, but probably not. I think I just liked the way the feathers looked and the Indians got to carry bows and arrows and we, the plain European folk, carried nothing. This classroom event is actually a great deal like the real first thanksgiving, now that I think about it.

I also remember looking across the room, over my stew and hard tack cornbread and falling in love with a fellow school mate. She wore pigtails, a headband and of course, a feather. I had never seen her before, because she was in the other 1st grade class. I remember thinking she was pretty and wondering why we didn't get to sit together. I also remember staring, trying to muster the courage to talk to her. I didn't. I did however, continue to prod my flavorless pilgrim food, listen to my stomach growl and wish I was wearing a feather instead of a hat.

I do think that there is something to be said for a group of people that sought freedom for their way of life againsts all odds. However, living as I do with modern conveniences, I do find it hard to grasp living in a world rife with such sickness and misfortune, where the high point of my day might be going into a meeting house with my fellow malnourished cohorts and thanking our maker for keeping us alive despite nature's plans to the contrary.

This episode was one of many ideas, and while it's not technically about thanksgiving, it does have pilgrims and the religiously persecuted so...there's that. As I'm sure you're aware, this episode is historically inaccurate, but as with all of VCoT episodes, this one has at least a kernel of truth. According to historical records, the Plymouth colony only had two trials for witchcraft and they both ended favorably for the accused. They did seem to whip people quite often though, and make them wear letters on their person identifying them as committers of "unclean acts". I think it would be fair to say that while the Plymouth colonists seemed lighter on witches than their Salem brethren, they certainly didn't fuck around when it came to punishment.

I want to thank Steve Giulano for spitballing with me. For those of you who don't know, Steve is the creator of the wonderful little comic Snow Days, if you haven't checked it out you should. I would also like to thank my wife for her, as yet, unused ending idea.

Happy Thanksgiving!

-Rob out.