Yesterday, the family and I found ourselves spontaneously gripped by the spirit of Fourth of July weekend and wound up driving out to historic Plymouth, Massachusetts, about an hour from where we live. Terry wanted to see the ocean, and I was certainly fine with that; I hadn’t realized lately just how much I missed seeing gigantic bodies of water on a regular basis (I’ve lived on the coast almost my entire life, and am hoping to do so again at some point).
But there’s only one reason, really, why I wanted to go to Plymouth, and that was to see The Rock. Plymouth Goddamn Rock. The Rock On Which Our Country Was Founded. Or something like that. I was always a little fuzzy on my history.
I’d always thought the pilgrims on board the Mayflower had seen this enormous rock as they were sailing into the bay and used it as a navigational aid of sorts. I’m not sure exactly how that story got into my head. I don’t honestly remember if that’s what I was taught in school or if I just made it up. But c’mon…this was one important friggin’ rock, right? It’s got to be something to behold. At the very least, it’s got to be pretty massive, right?
Really, not so much. I could easily fit Plymouth Rock in the backseat of my Mazda 626.
The town built a large viewing area around The Rock in 1920, a thirty-foot stone portico and platform from which viewers can look down at The Rock, some six feet below on the beach. The portico is far more impressive than Plymouth Rock itself. It’s just…it’s a rock. Nothing distinctive about it other than the “1620” carved into its surface. The Wikipedia says that it’s been called “the most disappointing landmark in America,” and I can certainly see why. I expect to be awed by my historical landmarks, not nonplussed.
And the thing is–we don’t know for sure that this rock is the rock. Plymouth Rock itself, like so many of our historical stories and signfiers, is largely myth. There’s no proof that this rock is the one onto which the pilgrims stepped off of the boat for the first time (yeah, I did some research after realizing just how wrong I had the story). All we have, 120 years after the fact, is the rememberances of some geezer who told the town leaders which rock his father had told him was the right one. It’s story that we hold now as fact. Y’know, kinda like hardcore Christians do the Bible. (Ba-DUM-bum.)
So if any of you were ever considering taking the time to go see this tiny little piece of Americana…don’t. Boston’s an hour north, and there’s plenty of sights to see in Boston that have unquestioned historical significance. You can see rocks just about anywhere.