November brings Thanksgiving, as we remember the Pilgrims and the first Thanksgiving in Plymouth Colony in 1621. But wait! Did the first Thanksgiving take place in Massachusetts? Or was it in Virginia? The Virginia Museum of History and Culture website states “more than a year earlier, a hardy band of Englishmen landed at Berkeley Hundred on the James River and held the real first Thanksgiving. Captain John Woodlief and thirty-seven men sailed from Bristol, England, on the ship Margaret and reached Berkeley Hundred nearly three months later in December 1619. They marked their deliverance from the stormy north Atlantic with a simple service of thanks to God.” The Museum sponsored a presentation in 2011 exploring what they called “The First Thanksgiving.” I remember hearing about the first Thanksgiving being in Virginia when I was an elementary librarian and worked with students doing research.
Proclamation #3560 by President John F. Kennedy establishing Thanksgiving Day as a national holiday starts with these words: “Over three centuries ago, our forefathers in Virginia and in Massachusetts, far from home in a lonely wilderness, set aside a time of thanksgiving. On the appointed day, they gave reverent thanks for their safety, for the health of their children, for the fertility of their fields, for the love which bound them together and for the faith which united them with their God.” It sounds like President Kennedy knew about the 1619 Thanksgiving at Berkeley!
One of the blessings in my life has been my family. Growing up, my siblings and I spent a lot of time in Criders, Virginia, with Albert and Bessie Dove, our maternal grandparents. My grandparents were each the oldest child in their families, so many of my mother’s first cousins were our age. We were grateful, thankful, and blessed to be able to visit and play with these cousins in Virginia often, even though we lived on Crab Run Road in Hardy County, WV. Grateful, thankful, blessed.
In a previous article about my mother, I noted that mom grew up with her aunt Odessa who wasn’t much older than she. My grandparents had a big house and sometimes various cousins spent the night with us there. One of my fondest memories Is of us cousins catching fireflies in my grandparents’ yard! We also were involved with many church activities with my grandparents at Valley View Mennonite Church. The children of Granville and Odessa Moyers (Carroll, Clayton, and Lois) who were technically my mom’s first cousins, were the ones we saw most. We also visited the younger children of my mom’s aunt Winnie and her husband Sam Ritchie (Lucile, Elaine, and Elma) often. Grateful, thankful, blessed!
How blessed our family is to still have Aunt Odessa with us at age100! Aunt Odessa was very welcoming and I spent a lot of time at her house; she was always kind and inviting. I remember her beautiful violets! She let us spent nights there and I recall reading comic books to her three children which probably started me on my career path as a librarian. Grateful, thankful, blessed!
Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary defines the three words used in the title like this: Grateful: “appreciative of benefits received; expressing gratitude.” Thankful: “conscious of benefits received; expressive of thanks.” Blessed: “Of or enjoying happiness; bringing pleasure or contentment.” So those three words that one will see on various plaques or objects decorating my house during November are not just pretty words. They have meaning and if we acknowledge that for which we are grateful, thankful, and blessed, our physical (and mental) health will be enhanced, too. Happy Thanksgiving, and don’t forget to be grateful, thankful, and blessed!