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“So, you’ve really never been down to see the Plymouth Rock?”
I shook my head no, and my friend Dala shook her own head in awe, her mouth twisted somewhere between amusement and disbelief. This couldn’t have been the first time she heard about this, right? She had known that I had missed that field trip in third grade.
“Then that settles it, we’re going. Now. You can’t spend seventeen years in Plymouth, and never go see the Rock,” Dala laughed airily and took my hand, her grip as tight as a vice.
I tried in vain to free myself as she began to pull me down the street. “Dala, we don’t have to go. It’s not even the real thing; it’s just there for the tourists. It’s not as big or impressive as you think it is. It’s just a rock,” I protested in vain, unsuccessful in my attempts to pull away from my friend and insistent tour guide. The more I fought, the more she dug her heels in. I already knew this was a war I couldn’t win.
“Just a rock? You’ve sent William Bradford rolling in his grave. We’ll go to Burial Hill and see him next, so you can apologize in person,” she turned with a cement-set smile, and I knew this wasn’t a joke.
I wanted to say more. I wanted to whine the whole way down, but I knew that she’d have written apologies out of me if I did. I gave in, and let her drag me down the sidewalks, towards the memorial. Why was it such a big deal that I had lived in Plymouth, Massachusetts for most of my life and never had laid eyes on our crown jewel? Plenty of people had to be like that, right?
As we neared that part of town, the throngs of tourists grew thicker, despite the fact that the sky had begun to darken. I knew that around this time of year, the living historical museum began their Thanksgiving festivities, and it set our historic city ringing with voices from all over the country. This was tourist season, and we would be busy until well after Christmas.
We then passed by a young boy as he read a plaque to his mother, careful as he translated the inscribed words into Chinese. She gently nodded on with encouragement.
“Geez,” I said softly as I watched them. “People really do come from all over the world just to see a rock, don’t they?”
Dala looked back and smiled like she knew something I didn’t. I could see that we had almost arrived at the marble pavilion that housed our legendary pebble. There was a small hoard of tourists gathered underneath it, and we slipped in to join them.
We shouldered our way to the metal bannister that separated us and the pit that contained the Plymouth Rock. All around us, tourists were pressed up against the railing, cameras held aloft, reveling in excitement just from the Rock’s presence.
It didn’t look like much. It was a rock, just a normal rock, with a decisive 1620 stamped on its flank. All around it, in the pit, tourists had thrown enough pennies to buy an ‘I Love the Plymouth Rock’ t-shirt for a group of a hundred.
Dala stayed with me, and her grip relaxed on my hand when she knew that I wouldn’t run. I was entranced by the stone, mind-boggled by the thought that millions of people had traveled across the globe to see the rock our country was supposedly founded on. I caught myself wondering what the folks aboard the Mayflower had felt, the first time they had seen the shores of the New World.
The crowd had begun to relax and the street lamps had come on by the time I finally turned to face my friend, who had a dirt-eating grin on her face.
“I suppose it isn’t really just a rock, is it?” I conceded.