(This is a variation on a column I wrote five years ago. More than one reader asked to see it again.)
I don’t know how your innocence died but here’s the way it happened for me. The Easter Bunny was the first fatality, just after my fifth birthday. That wasn’t such a shock. We didn’t have a TV so I hadn’t yet seen a talking rabbit. Easter was all about putting on a shirt and tie in the morning and searching for hidden eggs in the afternoon. Besides, I felt guilty about ritually eating a chocolate bunny rabbit — starting with his head. As a result, I was sad and relieved to discover that the Easter Bunny was a make-believe character.
The Tooth Fairy was the next casualty in my pseudo-pantheon. Like the rabbit, she was not a character I held close to my heart. I mean she was cute and clever and did leave money for me during the Pre-Allowance Era. On the other hand, you had to go through pain and loss before she’d visit and, well, a guy can’t swagger around the playground gushing about a fairy in a tutu — not that there’s anything wrong with that.
Santa Claus was the big one. I’m still not fully recovered from his untimely demise, or, as we say in Marin, “I haven’t gotten Claus closure.” There were, however, plusses to learning the truth about Santa. First, you were in on a tightly held grown-up secret. Second, it was now crystal clear whom you had to suck up to for a new bike. Better to have a person to target; writing letters to “Santa — The North Pole” seems iffy, even to a six-year-old.
The Santa Scam jaded me forever. Though news of business embezzlements, political payola, sports stars with clay feet and movie stars with clay morals flew through my life on a regular basis, nothing else had the impact of Santagate.
Except … Thanksgiving is now under attack! There’s increasing controversy about “What really happened at the first Thanksgiving?” including whole books on just this topic like, “A Great and Godly Adventure — The Pilgrims and the Myth of the First Thanksgiving” by Godfrey Hodgson. MYTH! Are you gonna believe a guy named, excuse me, Godfrey, who in describing the first Thanksgiving said it’s “virtually certain turkey was not served?” Thanksgiving sans turkey eliminates your excuse for falling asleep before you can get to the dishes — you know, tryptophan and all that. And, if you believe Godddfreeey, the remainder of a traditional Thanksgiving weekend should be spent snacking on raccoon leftovers. Yummmm — not.
Mr. Hodgson also claims Abe Lincoln nominated Thanksgiving as a federally observed holiday to help promote national unity during the Civil War. Honest Abe! You want me to believe he was a spin-doctor president like whatshisname with the “W”? Next you’ll tell me Columbus didn’t discover America.
Admittedly, the first Thanksgiving wasn’t all smiles and prayers and glad-handing. There was a tad of tension between the pilgrims and Massasoit, chief of the local Wampanoag tribe — something about “stepping on a rock does not a property owner make.” In reply, one of the pilgrims may have mentioned that those at the table who were smart enough to read had papers proving this was their land. It’s also possible the chief forgot to tell the pilgrims to shuck the corn before eating it.
These minor disagreements might have, in some way, contributed to the Indian-American war, if there ever was such a thing. I know there was a French-and-Indian War but that title is misleading because it wasn’t the French against the Indians, it was the French with the Indians against the British, who seem to have had a dog in every war ever waged.
Confusing? Well, that’s what history is: a lot of live people trying to guess what a lot of dead people actually did long ago. There’s value in that endeavor but some things are best left alone — here I’m thinking mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie with whipped cream.
I SAY, if a holiday works, don’t fix it. My advice to Mr. Hodgson is to take his theory and stuff it where the stuffing would go if he were a turkey.
This Week's Ponder: Why do food dishes never look as good as their pictures?