New England Diary: The Rock That Bears Witness

We visited an amazing memory of our history, Plymouth Rock.

This summer, schools are finally holding graduation ceremonies canceled during the early days of COVID. With double booster shots now in our arms, my husband and I felt comfortable enough to take a special road trip from Washington D.C. to Boston where our daughter, Halley, graduated from Tufts University with a fine arts degree in 2020. We were all excited to see her finally walking across the stage in her special graduation gown.

Both of our children attended universities in Boston so we knew that this ceremony would mean our last “mandatory” trip to the New England area. To make it special, after the graduation, we decided to explore two important places in the region that we had always wanted to see.

Our first stop was Portland, Maine. We eagerly embraced its picturesque Old Port District with eclectic century-old buildings and homes, and strolled its narrow, unevenly paved alleyways from colonial times. We savored the local seafood such as lobster rolls, steamer clams, and scrod, as our eyes feasted on the surrounding harbor view. For a touch of perfection, nature even added a rainbow for us, arching over the pristine grayish-blue water.

We followed in the footsteps of our great American poet, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, at the Portland Head Light in Cape Elizabeth, where we stood high over the rocky shore and crashing waves, contemplating the lines from his work, “The Lighthouse.” Portland was even more beautiful than we’d envisioned.

Then came the highlight of our journey, Plymouth Harbor. Being a Chinese-American immigrant, it was a pilgrimage I had always wanted to make and finally, my dream came true. I got to stand on the very site where the Mayflower had landed when it carried 102 early immigrants to America, and pay my respects to our country’s most important stone, Plymouth Rock, inscribed with the historic year, “1620.” This seemingly ordinary stone bears witness to some 400 years of ups and downs in our country ever since it greeted the new arrivals. Today, it still sits faithfully in its place at the shore, sheltered beneath a white, memorial-like structure, flanked by sixteen classical columns.

Whether the Mayflower passengers actually stepped on it when they arrived there matters less than our nation’s unwavering belief that this landmark is a material witness to a key event in the creation of the United States of America. Therefore, it qualifies as one of the early pillars of our country.

It is no wonder that Plymouth Rock draws about one million visitors every year, now including me and my family. Its larger-than-life presence will forever loom in our imaginations, a constant reminder to everyone of what America is all about.

Reflections of the East Column

By Qin Stubis

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