Jussel: The Thanksgiving story (abridged, first-grader version)

First-grade grandson Cody came through the door with a smile, blond hair topped off with a brand-new piece of head gear.

A red feather was taped to a yellow strip of construction paper that wrapped three-quarters the way around the head and connected by a rubber band, the elementary school version of one-size-fits-all.

He turned full circle to show off his new prized possession and asked, “Papa, do you know about the Mayflower?”

Thinking back to school days too long gone, I told Cody that I remembered some things about the Mayflower, but asked him to refresh my memory.

“Well, first of all, it’s not a flower. I thought it was at first, but then I found out it’s a boat. It’s from a long time ago,” he told me.

Being the curious sort, I asked how long ago.

“It was way before I was born, maybe even before you were born. And it came from way far away and it carried some people called Pilgrims.”

“Pilgrims,” I replied. “Who were Pilgrims?”

From there, the story got a little fuzzy. And it took a bit of a political turn.

Cody told me the Pilgrims were people who were mad. They were mad at their president. And just to make sure I wasn’t confused, Cody told me the Pilgrims weren’t mad at President Obama, whoever that fellow might be.

“I think the Pilgrims’ president was a bad man and he made them so mad they had to leave. So they got on the boat, that Mayflower, and they went across the water to another place,” my first-grade tutor informed me.

My interest was obviously piqued at this point. “So, where did these Pilgrims go?” I asked.

“I don’t know for sure where they went,” he said. “But it was pretty close to our house in Grand Junction. And I know when they got there, they were hungry because they didn’t have much food in the boat and they weren’t very good at fishing or hunting like my dad.”

At that point, Cody, being 6 and having a rather short attention span, headed for the refrigerator and started the chocolate milk process, heavy on the chocolate. He needed a little prodding to continue. I asked him how the Pilgrims found food.

“They were lucky. That’s when they met Squanto,” he replied.

“So,” I asked, “who was this Squanto person?”

“You don’t remember Squanto?” Cody asked in disbelief. “We just saw him at the movie. Squanto was the Lone Ranger’s best friend. He taught the Lone Ranger how to wear a mask and fight bad guys.”

Whoa! Detour!

“Cody, that wasn’t Squanto. That was Tonto,” I said, trying to clear up a minor misconception.

“Oh, OK,” he said matter-of-factly. “So did Tonto and the Lone Ranger help the Pilgrims, ‘cause I know somebody did?”

“That was Squanto,” I told him.

“Squanto was one of people who were living on this land when the Pilgrims arrived on the Mayflower. He and others showed the Pilgrims how to grow the food they needed to survive.”

“So, Squanto, not Tonto, helped the Pilgrims?” Cody asked to clarify.

“Yes, that’s correct,” I said.

“Well, I know one way or another, they all had a big dinner and it became Thanksgiving,” he said. “They had a real decent meal like we have sometimes.”

At this point, I asked Cody what he thought Squanto and his new friends had at their real decent meal. I was thinking about grandma’s turkey and dressing, corn and green beans on the side, gravy dripping over mashed potatoes, a huge pie to split up for dessert, the whole nine yards.

Cody was a bit more into his here-and-now.

“I’ll bet they had pizza, peanut butter-and-jelly and hot dogs,” he said, ticking off a list of his favorite food groups. “I’m sure they didn’t have tomatoes, and I know they didn’t have pickles.”

At that point, I decided to act like Paul McCartney and let it be.

I sat down on the couch and clicked the remote to The Golf Channel, secure in the knowledge that I had just learned a great lesson: How a bad president had ticked off a bunch of people who hopped on a boat, only to meet up with Tonto and the Lone Ranger and have pizza and peanut butter and roasted hot dogs at a big party.

That’s how Thanksgiving came to be, and Cody and I are sticking to it.


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