And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. Colossians 1:10-14 (NIV)
November was a busy month not just because of History Fair, but because I had several speaking engagements, all in the evening or on weekends. One was to the Mayflower Society, a club for people who are descendants of the passengers on the Mayflower. I was scheduled to speak at 1:00 on a perfectly lovely fall Saturday and reluctantly donned my pioneer costume that morning. One of the programs I do is a first person monologue pretending to be the wife of our county’s first settler. As Mary Gates, I arrive dressed in long skirt, high top shoes and sunbonnet. It was a luncheon meeting, and there was much interest at my table as I told the story of the cameo I wear with my costume. My mother gave it to me. It was found in northern Alabama in a field where one of my great-great-grandfathers was plowing in the 1870s. The family story states that it probably was dropped by a looting Yankee on the run and once belonged to a wealthy plantation owners’ wife. The cameo is bent where the blade of the plow dredged it from the ground. When the meal was finished and I was introduced by my real name, I acted confused, professing not to know that person. I insisted that I was born in 1816 and my name was Mary Gates. I tell the stories of Mary’s life, the reluctance to leave her childhood home, her fear of the Native Americans whose land her family invaded, her encounters with Federal troops during the Civil War, her sorrow at the death of her husband and her joy watching her children grow to become community leaders. I always fear that one day Mary Gates will fail me, but every time I do the program, it is as though she takes over my body and I become her. Whenever I reach the point of her husband’s illness and death, I cry as though it were my own husband abandoning me alone in the Florida wilderness. As I prepared to leave, I had to laugh as one woman confided, “That was really interesting. Usually our meetings are boring.” In part, I agreed with her. I hate it when groups make me sit through the business portion of their meeting before I can speak. There were the usual pleas for volunteers, discussion of bank accounts, and approval of new members as in any non profit organization. But, near the end of their meeting, this group did something extraordinary. One person read the names of all the passengers on the Mayflower and members stood when they heard their ancestor’s name. Then, they all rose while the Mayflower Compact was recited. It was a very moving experience. While I can’t claim to be descendant of our country’s earliest arrivals and the cameo handed down through my family is probably stolen, I can claim to be a daughter of the King. And that’s another thing to be thankful for this Thanksgiving.
The Mayflower Compact
“In the name of God, Amen. We, whose names are underwritten, the Loyal Subjects of our dread Sovereign Lord, King James, by the Grace of God, of England, France and Ireland, King, Defender of the Faith, e&. Having undertaken for the Glory of God, and Advancement of the Christian Faith, and the Honour of our King and Country, a voyage to plant the first colony in the northern parts of Virginia; do by these presents, solemnly and mutually in the Presence of God and one of another, covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil Body Politick, for our better Ordering and Preservation, and Furtherance of the Ends aforesaid; And by Virtue hereof to enact, constitute, and frame, such just and equal Laws, Ordinances, Acts, Constitutions and Offices, from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the General good of the Colony; unto which we promise all due submission and obedience. In Witness whereof we have hereunto subscribed our names at Cape Cod the eleventh of November, in the Reign of our Sovereign Lord, King James of England, France and Ireland, the eighteenth, and of Scotland the fifty-fourth. Anno Domini, 1620.”