Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Creating a Historical Memory

Recently my family had a reunion at the Blue Ridge Assembly YMCA near Black Mountain, NC.  In planning for this event I wanted to be able to create a memory that the smaller children could take away after it was all over.  My earliest known ancestor, Edward Doty, came to America aboard the Mayflower in 1620 as an apprentice to Stephen Hopkins.   My grandmother, Nora, was a Doty and a direct descendant of Edward Doty.

For the re-union I had a specialty firm make up tote bags with “Pinkerman Family Reunion 2013;” a drawing of the Mayflower under sail; and the words, “Descendants of Edward Doty” and “Mayflower 1620.”  My family provided and hosted the first dinner.   We served a “taste of the South” with Carolina BBQ, a low country boil (corn, potatoes, sausage, and shrimp), key lime pie, pecan pie, and fresh Carolina peaches on ice-cream. 

As a way of educating younger family members about our family history I wrote a 9-minute monologue that my son, Ryan, memorized.   I purchased several Pilgrim hats and bonnets as well as Pilgrim and Indian costumes for some of the grand children.  Following the meal I had our Pilgrims and Indians parade into the dining hall and then I announced a special guest who had traveled all the way from Plymouth, Massachusetts just to be with us.  My son, Ryan, had rented a costume and entered the room to deliver the monologue as Edward Doty.  He told about his experience leaving England for the New World aboard the Mayflower; his being among a handful of men who first set foot on land to seek out a desirable place to settle for that first winter; his participation in the first duel fought in New England; his marriage and the birth of his children; his acquisition of land; and the celebration of the first Thanksgiving in the fall of 1621.  My little grand niece, Riley Jane (age 18 months), was dressed as a little Pilgrim girl.  When my son reached the point in the monologue where he was telling of the birth aboard the Mayflower of the Hopkins’ daughter, Oceanus, Riley Jane went up to him and Ryan swept her up in his arms as if it were on cue.  The costumes and the monologue were a huge hit.  The children lined up to have pictures taken with the Pilgrim hats and bonnets and those in costume posed for photographs as well.   On the last evening of the reunion I had a drawing and gave away the Pilgrim hats, bonnets, costumes, t-shirts, and more.  The small children loved it.  I asked some of the smaller children to actually draw out the names of the winners.  As the drawing was being conducted the children and adults pounded on the tables as if all were doing a drum roll.  Again, the children loved it!

On another evening I led a “Time of Remembrance.”  I read a name of an ancestor who had passed on and then invited those present to share a memory of that person.  I expected the process to take no more than 20 minutes but because so many shared memories the session lasted for over an hour.  My mother shared with those present a memory of the day that her father died when she was just four years old.   Many of the memories shared had never been heard by many of the younger generations.
At the dining tables for each meal I placed “Who am I?” (6 or 7 short stories about our ancestors (living and deceased).  Those seated about the tables collaborated in coming up with answers regarding the persons associated with each story.  It was one more way of sharing family history in a fun way.

The creation of lasting memories is important in families.  Memories can be the glue that cements us into the great puzzle of life and helps give meaning to who we are.   We have to pause in wonder when we reflect that, in a way, we are made up of bits and pieces of all of our ancestors.   In my case, if Edward Doty had not made his way to America aboard the Mayflower; had he not married Faith Clarke; had he and his descendants not had children; I would not be here today.  In a way our family heritage is like a giant tapestry that tells a story.    We all need to be about creating memories and telling our stories. 

**This post was authored by Loren L. Pinkerman, Director

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