Sunday, July 31, 2011

Thompson Island

Today was an auspicious day for many reasons. 
First, it's my birthday.  54 mostly sweet years on this earth.  And I'm thankful for the gift God and my parents gave me of life.
Second, it's the last day of my visit (along with RE) to BB, K and C.  We've loved being with 'Crain-Northeast', as they're known in our far west coast household. It's been a luxury for all of us to share this 'out-of-our-daily-lives' time together.  RE, BB and I all felt the absence of our spouses and what they are dealing with in other parts of the country while we play here.  RE's farmer husband, waiting for a late harvest, is battling a summer flu and trying to work, BB's wife, off in Michigan, comforts a grandmother in mourning, and my own Beve has been sleeping on a cot in our home because the whole Giant clan descended in Bellingham. 

But the third reason today was auspicious was a long time coming.  Many, many generations, in a way.  You see, today we took a boat out to an 200 acre island in Boston Harbor that is now an Outward Bound property.  I can't remember the first time I heard about this particular island, but surely it was before I started school. You see, in 1622, a man named David Thompson was granted 6000 acres and an island by the military advisor to the King of England.  Then his friend, Miles Standish, lately of Plimoth Plantation made a 17 hour trip up from Plimoth in search of the promised island for Thompson.   An island was found, David made the trip, and eventually brought his wife, Amias, and son, John, over to start a fur-trading company on what became known as Thompson Island. 

That David Thompson is my who-knows-how-many-greats-grandfather.  My mother was a Thompson. It was the strangest feeling just to see the signs to the boat and know that it was OUR family name.  We stood in line for the boat next to the head of maintenance for the island and he told us the boat ride would be free if "you catch Carl, the captain, in the right mood."  Today Carl was clearly very happy, and we rode for free.

On the island, most people opt for the nature walk with two national parks guides, but a historical society volunteer named Charlie was beside himself to discover that he had five takers for his tour. Charlie loves his history.  He has his notebook and his little photo album and won't answer questions while he walks, but waits until he's under a shade tree, then half the time forgets to answer the question, but since he's in his mid-80s, and it was 'wicked-hot', it was understandable.  When he found out we are direct descendents of David and Amais Thompson, he was verklempft.  Discombobulated.  Kept telling us he would have brought many more pictures if he'd known we were coming.  'Such important visitors.'  It was the sweetest thing. 

And I admit, I was a little verklempft myself.  The last two weeks have been a kind of 'time-traveling' history lesson for me.  From Ellis Island to Independence Hall to Plimoth Plantation.  And all along, the whole time, I kept thinking that my family has been a part of this.  Part of this great experiment now known as these United States.  The one so often divided it takes the the eleventh hour and the very brink of disaster for each side to compromise and even at that its an uneasy truce.  As it was true with those fleeing war and religious persecution in Europe in the 1600s who had to settle among the real Natives of this land, so it has continued to today--to this very day, when--perhaps, though I'll believe it when I see it, but please, for pity sake, please!!!!--the two political machines in DC actually managed to vote to pay our bills again.  (I mean, can you imagine running a marriage the way they run this country?  Divorce would be around the corner, without a doubt!)

My family landed on these shores in 1623.  One hundred and fifty years before the Declaration of Independence, there were Thompsons here.   Four hundred years ago.  And standing on that island, where my family first lived was chilling. I wish I had better words for the experience.  An unbroken line goes backwards from my children to that very successful fur trader and his even more intelligent and strong wife (exactly as my mother always said, Amais Cole Thompson was the brains and backbone of the family!).  That's a heritage.  When we walked down to the spot where their 30 x 30 foot house once stood, made of 10" bricks from Plymouth, England, the view was what she saw as she worked in front of her home, tending the garden, or cooking over the massive fireplace.  And she was my much-removed grandmother.  And that moves me.  Makes me stronger.  I teasingly told a maintenance man that we'd come to take our island back, and he answered, "There are a few days--in November--when I'd gladly give it to you!"

But beyond this heritage that so moved me that I almost felt like kneeling toward the earth on which I walked, I leaned toward heaven where my true Home is.  In Hebrews it says that the faithful are "looking for a country of their own.  If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had the opportunity to return."  We did return today.  To the land of our fore-bearers, so to speak.  It was sweet and good, and we were very interested in all we learned.  Glad of it.  However, I am left "longing for a better country--a heavenly one.  Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a place for them."

That's my true heritage.  He is, I mean.  I am blessed beyond blessed that those intrepid Thompsons came across the sea from Plymouth four centuries ago to trade with the Natives, to dwell in this land and enjoy safe harbor.  It gave me a chance to be not only a Thompson--and I felt very proud of that today, of course--but to be a Christ-one.  One is marked by an Island, stands in a harbor on this earth.  But the other is marked in blood and stands in a book, marked for all eternity.

Who are you?  Do you know where you came from?
It's fascinating to learn.
But where you're going, now that's the story worth telling again and again and again.

PS.  Thanks, BB, K and C, for spending the week with us.  It was a privilege.

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