Mothers of the Mayflower

From the Farm:


Published in the Casper Journal November 24, 2010

            One hundred two passengers.  Twenty-four children.   Nine cats.  One cargo ship, ninety feet long.  Sixty-four days on a stormy sea.  A possible recipe for disaster—at least in this day and age.
            If I had set sail with my children, I would have preferred a private room, catered meals, and disposable diapers.  And I would have requested a cruise liner instead of a 1620’s trading vessel. 
            At the end of the voyage I would have demanded my own bed—not an isolated beach inhabited by “savages;” a lonely place where nearly half of their company would be buried that first year.
During November our family has been reading, “Pilgrim Boy,” a historic account of a family that crossed the ocean on the Mayflower.  After reading just the first chapter, I knew – I couldn’t have done it.  Weeks of living in the hold of a ship with small children, seasick people, and cold food would have killed me, at least emotionally.  And then to arrive and know that there were still months ahead before real homes would be built, or real food grown.  I would have died, or stayed in Holland.  I’m not being sarcastic, just realistic. 
            Why did they do it?  What gave them the courage to gamble with their lives under such conditions? 
            Perhaps there’s a direct relationship between personal sacrifice and results—like a timeless math equation.
            If I went on a cruise, what would I become?  A little groggy, a little too pampered, a little overweight.
            But, what did their demanding voyage produce?  A colony.  A nation.  A better life for their children.  The chance to worship God as they pleased, and leave a stagnant life behind. 
            Of the eighteen women aboard the ship, only five lived to celebrate their first harvest; but their sacrifices are remembered three hundred and eighty-nine Thanksgivings later. 
            And what of the new life they sought for their children?  It was everything they hoped for, and more.
            One hundred fifty years later, during a trip back to the Old World, Benjamin Franklin observed that even the poorest American farmers were “princes” when compared to the peasants of Great Britain.  Their sacrifices produced a new brand of royalty—where freedom is riches.
Today, the high plains of Wyoming with Rocky Mountains and windswept grasses are vastly different than the lush, green hills of England and the tree-covered lands of the American East Coast.  Yet the sacrifices of our pilgrim mothers still produce abundance for women today. Our land of plenty is a direct result of their hardship. 
Is it fair that a mother’s burdens years ago allow us so many blessings now?  Somehow our existence on this timeline gives us the privilege of eating warm food when theirs was cold, washing laundry in machines instead of by hand, and giving birth in comfortable circumstances. 
            Mothers of the Mayflower—all those stormy, cold, wet days and nights, with sea biscuits and seasick children—I thank you.  And my children do, too.
Originally printed in The Wyoming Woman Magazine, Fall 2010.

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