A Tragically Hopeful Thanksgiving

The Pageant of a Nation, painted by  Jean Leon Gerome Ferris

The Pageant of a Nation, painted by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris

By Elizabeth Nicklis

Crick, crick, crick. 

Sarah awoke to the sound of birds chirping. It was sunrise; she would have to hurry if she didn't want to get a scolding for being idle. 

Ugh, she thought. I hate this new so called, “America.” 

She lived in Plymouth Colony, and she didn't like it one bit.  

“Morning,” she said to Ma in the kitchen. 

“You're quite late. Go and fetch us some water.” 

When she was out near the well, a boy named James came up to her. He was lean, strong, and capable of doing a grown man's work. He was tall and had shaggy blond hair with bangs on the right. He had a dimple and liked to laugh and make other people laugh. 

“Good morning Little Bird,” James said.

Little Bird was his pet name for her. 

“Good morning,” Sarah said. 

James had been visiting her often now so she wasn't surprised at him being here. 

“Late to work as usual, I suppose,” he teased. 

“Oh yes, and what are you supposed to be doing lazy boy?” Sarah snapped back. 

James for a moment looked hurt.

“I came to see you before my morning chores.” His face reddened and Sarah instantly felt bad. 

“I'm sorry James,” she said. “I guess I am just not happy here.” 

“Hm, how about you finish your chores quickly, and then I can take you for a walk around this America you hate so much and show you how beautiful it is?” 

Now it was Sarah's turn to blush. 

“Well, I…I…I will ask Ma.” 

“Great, I’ll see you around!”

James then jumped the fence and was gone. 

“Well goodbye to you too,” she murmured under her breath. 

When she got back to the house, Ma was waiting. 

“Where were you? You took forever.” 

“She probably was out kissing that boy James at the well,” said Mary who had just come from the bedroom. 

“Shut up Mary.” Sarah said to her younger sister. 

“Watch your words,” Ma said. 

A little while later a knock sounded outside. Sarah froze. What if it was James? Then she'd be busted for sure. Ma opened the door. 

“Hullo Mrs. Hannah,” said Mr. Boston stepping in through the door.

“Why hello Mr. Boston, do you bring news?” Ma asked anxiously. 

“You can call me John, Hannah.” 

“Why?” asked Ma. 

“Because we're neighbors!” John Boston's laugh rang through the whole house. 

“Is that the only news you bring us?” asked Sarah who had been quiet this whole time. 

Mr. Boston looked down with surprise.

“Well, hullo beautiful flower.” 

“Hello,” Sarah said back absentmindedly. 

Beautiful? She thought. I certainly don't think so. 

Sarah had messy brown hair, a small nose and mouth, and round brown eyes. To top it off, she had a patched up, black and brown dress with a white apron. Ma brought her manners back by nudging her side. 

“Thank you sir,” she said wincing. 

Ma glared at her and Mr. Boston looked confused. Then she realized he had asked her a question! And she had answered with thank you sir! No wonder why he looked so lost.

Poor Ma, she thought. She is probably ashamed of me

“I mean, what did you say?” Sarah countered.

“Um,” Mr. Boston said, clearly recovering from his shock. “I asked if you have seen that boy, James Adams?”

“Why, did he do something bad”” Sarah asked with concern. 

“Well, the boy took a chicken promising to weigh it and bring it back, but he never did.” He took a deep breath, “And so now I'm looking for him and my chicken.” 

Sarah gasped with horror. 

“So you've seen him?” Mr. Boston asked. 

“Yes sir, by the well, we were going to go on a walk together,” Sarah said.

Ma looked down at her very much surprised. 

“I'll tell you this: either don't go because that boy is trouble or get my chicken back!”

John Boston stomped away without another word. 

“My goodness!” Ma cried. “Make sure when you meet that Adams boy, you get that chicken, or else we'll have a cranky neighbor for life!” 

“You mean you'll let me go?!” Sarah asked. 

“Yes, but fetch your cloak first.” 

“Thank you Ma!” Sarah said as she embraced her mother. 

“All right, all right, now go get ready.”

Sarah ran up to the loft and came down with the purple shawl. 

“Goodbye Ma, goodbye Mary.”

Then she was off.

Sarah found James leaning on a tree by Turtle Brook and ran to meet him. To her dismay, there was a bucket resting next to him that held John Boston's chicken! 

“Whatcha got there?” She asked. 

“Pickle,” James replied. 

“Is Pickle Mr. Boston's hen?”

James smiled sheepishly. 

“Yeah, I'm supposed to be weighing it.” 

“I heard. He’s real mad about it.”

The pair started walking down the path. 

That afternoon, when she was walking home, Sarah had Pickle in her arms. Ma was at the door when Sarah got home so she swiftly dumped the bird in her arms.

“Here, tell grumpy Mr. Boston that Pickle is fine.” 

“Pickle?” Ma asked with a raised eyebrow. 

“That's the hen's name.” Sarah said. 

“Oh, I'll tell Samuel to go to his house tonight after he finishes milking Daisy and Bella,” Ma said. 

Samuel was Mary and Sarah's Pa. He was tall and strong with short brown hair.

“Yes ma'am.” Sarah moaned.

She had been hoping she could present Mr. Boston with Pickle herself. After all, she had rescued the stupid hen. 

“Ma?” she asked.

“Yes, what do you need Sarah?” 

“I…I'd like to bring Pickle to Mr. Boston please,” she said. “I got it back for him.” 

Ma looked doubtful.

“I'll ask Samuel,” she said. 

A little while later Pa came in. 

“Do you think we should let Sarah go to Mr. Boston's house to return his chicken, Pickle?” Ma asked. “It is a long way.” 

“Well,” Samuel said slowly. “If you think she's mature and responsible enough, I'm okay with it.” 

Sarah's fingers and mind did a little happy dance. Sarah drew herself up to her full height and tried to look older and more mature. 

Come on Ma, She thought. Come on. 

“Um, I think she is mature,” Ma said.

“What about responsible?” Samuel asked. 

“Well, she did get Mr. Boston's chicken back so I say...” Ma paused and Sarah held her breath.  “Yes.”

“Oh Ma! Oh Pa! Thank you so much!” Sarah cried. She wrapped her arms around them saying over and over “Thank you. Oh thank you!”

As she walked down the path, Sarah could not stop thinking about how lucky she was and what a good Ma and Pa she had. But Sarah would have to hurry if she wanted to get there and back before dark. The sun was already pretty low and dim.

As she turned off of Horse Farm Road, she was standing at the edge of the Great Forest. It was also called the Indian Forest, so she kept a sharp lookout for any strange noises, sights, or smells that came near. Once, she almost threw a stone at an innocent bunny rabbit. She went on until she got to Clover Hill and looked up. It was almost sunset; she would have to be quick. She turned onto Cotton Lane and went to the third door on the left. She shifted Pickle to her other arm and knocked on the wooden door. 

Mr. Boston's servant opened the door, took her cloak, and led her inside to the living room where he and his wife sat by the fireplace. Sarah put Pickle behind her back and went in. 

“Um, Mr. Boston?” Sarah asked. 

“Who? What? Yes?” Mr. Boston answered lost in thought. 

“I saw James Adams this afternoon.” Sarah tried again.

Those words seemed to have brought John Boston out of his thoughts.

“You did, huh? What did that little rascal do with my hen?”  Mr. Boston snapped. 

“I have it right here sir” Sarah told him with a smile.

She brought Pickle out from behind her back. Mr. and Mrs. Boston joyfully rushed over to grab the chicken. 

“Thank you dear Sarah,” Mrs. Boston said. “Thank you so much”

Mr. Boston nodded his agreement, and then asked suddenly,

“Did you see the start of our new house?” 

“No sir” Sarah answered.

“Well, on your way home, about a street down from your house, is Waving Field. That’s where the skeleton of our new home is.” Mr. Boston said. “We're even going to have a brick chimney! Now I'll give you some cookies and you should march home you little returner. It's almost sundown.”

As she neared the Waving Field, Sarah could see the logs and bricks forming the skeleton of the Boston’s new house. Sarah could also see the lights of her warm house up ahead. Stuffing the last bit of cookie in her mouth, she took off running. When she got there is was about dark. A tangle of hugs and kisses were waiting for her from Ma, Pa, and Mary.

“I'm so proud of you Sarah!” Ma said wiping away her tears. 

Sarah was tired, but she told her family about what had happened; the bunny, the cookies, the house. Everything.

A few days later, James Adams came to call and Sarah accepted. 

On Sunday, the Sabbath day, the day of no work, Sarah could not go to service.  She had recently become deathly ill. No doctors could find a cure. They didn't even risk bleeding her (a process that involved cutting into her vein because the doctors thought diseases would flow away with the blood). The only hope was that her strong body would fight the sickness and she would heal. 

As Sarah was trying to recover, the colony suffered through the starving time. No one could get enough to eat. More people became ill and many people and children died. This was a tragic time, but Sarah's body held on to the last hope of life. She was still alive, but struggling. 

After about a week, miracles began occurring! Hope was restored. The Indians gave food freely, crops grew ripe and ready, streams flowed through land, and many people (including Sarah) got well. The Pilgrims decided to hold a feast of thanks to the Lord and Indians. They called this Thanksgiving. The colony's leaders invited Massasoit to the feast and all colonial families were invited. Everyone donated something. Sarah's family donated rice and corn. Some families provided ham, turkey, and bacon. They set up games and races and had fun!

But then Massasoit came. He had not two, but 10, 20, 40, 60, 80, 90 Indian braves with him! The Pilgrims were fearful. There wasn't enough food! Massasoit settled that matter. He sent many warriors into the woods. They came back with at least four deer slung on their backs. Thanksgiving was saved! Sarah attended the feast, but was too ill to play and too weak to eat. The celebration lasted three whole days! Imagine, three whole days of fun, games, races, eating, and talking! 

Sarah had little fun. She was ill again. Her last words were, “Thank you everyone, Happy Thanksgiving.” 

She then breathed her last breath and went to meet Jesus.

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