Seeing as it is the Monday following Thanksgiving, I figure most of my fellow Americans here in the US are either congratulating themselves for having finally polished off the Thanksgiving left-overs or are giving Aunt Martha’s casserole in a Tupperware dish a cautious sniff. (When in doubt, throw it out!) Another Thanksgiving come and gone, another opportunity to lie to ourselves.
I’m not trying to speak for all Thanksgiving celebrators, but I probably speak for many of us when I say that our favorite parts of the holiday are based on at least one lie. Most likely, there are many lies we tell ourselves when it comes to the holiday, the least of them being that pumpkin pie is basically a vegetable hidden under all that
whipped cream serving of dairy.
Of course, we all know that those adorable stories we tell about the Pilgrims and the local Indians sharing some version of a potluck dinner are at best a mythological telling of the facts and at worst a form of historical revisionism. But like that third slice of pie, we just can’t help ourselves. We like our version of the truth best. In other words, we like our lies better than the truth.
I, of course, suffer from the same fondness for historical revisionism, at least at the personal level. I was telling the staff at work last week that Thanksgiving is my very favorite holiday. I like it better than my birthday and Christmas combined. After all, it is a day that includes all my very favorite things: cooking for others, and my wonderful husband and children. However, the reason I gave for its prized position of holiday favorite is that my mother instilled in me an appreciation of welcoming others to the table on Thanksgiving. To hear me tell it, my mother is a champion of all the lonely and unattached on Thanksgiving. Which is probably not the truth, but which is how I’ve explained my love of the holiday for so long, I’ve come to believe it to be true.
More likely, my mother probably once or twice practiced a blending of a family Thanksgiving meal and a “Friendsgiving” and invited some friends to celebrate with us. I don’t actually know. Of all the Thanksgivings of my childhood, there are only three that include crystalline memories for me: my freshman year at Pacific when I invited my out-of-state roommate home with me, the time in high school that I had the flu on Thanksgiving, and when I was about 8 and sitting on the kitchen stool because every chair in the house was being used since there were so many people there.
Obviously, I remember Thanksgiving the way I want to remember it.
We all do these sorts of things — revise the truth until we like the outcome. If you don’t believe me, just think about how many selfies you last took before you found one that managed to hide the dark circles under your eyes and make the wrinkles disappear. What you posted to social media was the truth, but only from one perspective. And that perspective is typically one that is manipulated just a tad. Or, in the case of how I remember my mother and Thanksgiving, a tiny slice of the overall truth.
I figure we’ve all done some form of historical revisionism at some point, it’s just that social media has brought the propensity to our attention. Models and actors such as Zendaya have released un-retouched photos to prove that what is publicly known is not always the truth. And I have read many a Facebook status update that glosses over the truth as I know it, and instead presents a slightly nuanced version of events. Because of technology’s role in our lives, we have a unique opportunity to participate in how the truth is remembered. The question is, what we will do?
More important to ask ourselves is this: where is the line between “okay” historical revisionism and “malicious” revisionism?
I would hope that every opportunity that presents itself for the us to be defenders of the truth is taken and championed. When Holocaust deniers dare to change history, their version is rejected. When textbooks paint an untrue version of how colonists treated the Native Americans, they are replaced with quality materials instead. When entire cultures or religions are vilified for the actions of an individual, the conversation is corrected. And in the case of my Thanksgiving memories, I guess I need to stop telling my version of them.
Instead, I need to tell the truth. As a child, my love for my mother was so strong that it colored my view of her. But it also allowed me to see her goodness and grace. And it made me remember the lessons she taught me by example: that all are welcome at the table, that community is what will save us individually and collectively, and that what makes a holiday the best is the people who celebrate it with you.
In this case, I like my lies and my truth best. Because Thanksgiving will always be my favorite holiday and I want my children to remember that. I want them to remember that I passed along to them my version of my mother’s Thanksgiving traditions and that’s no lie.