Richard Reiss is the author of “Desperate Love: A Father’s Memoir.” He lives in Canaan, N.Y., with his wife Paula.

If you Google “the meaning of Thanksgiving,” the first thing that comes up is a contemporary telling of the Thanksgiving story. It’s a little different than the story many of us were told in our youth. That’s the one where the Pilgrims — also known as the Colonists in the 1620s, or in today’s vernacular the colonialists — had a wonderful harvest and invited their dear friends, the Wampanoag, to join them for a three-day eating festival that may or may not have included a turkey.

The food was delicious, and there was a friendly cornhole tournament between the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag that led to 10 years of uninterrupted peace. It’s a feel-good story to which everyone can relate. Well, everyone but Native Americans, who view Thanksgiving as the beginning of the end for their way of life and their people. Nothing to celebrate there.

My millennial children love the 21st-century telling of this 17th-century event because it reinforces a belief they have adopted since completing high school: that everything they learned about American history from kindergarten to 12th grade was a big, fat lie. For them, the current Thanksgiving story is another win for truth and justice. Baby boomers, of which I am one, have a slightly different reaction. We cling to the past, but we don’t fight the present. Isn’t it enough that we carry the burden of ruining the planet and its environmental, economic and social systems? We also invented the internet, which lately is getting mixed reviews. We can live with a new Thanksgiving narrative as long as the turkey isn’t overcooked.

Whether you are an originalist or revisionist, in today’s world there can be no Thanksgiving without love. Forget Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Grandparent’s Day and all the other days when we are obliged to express our fondness of other human beings. Thanksgiving, despite its cloudy origin, is the place of hugs and kisses even when we are mad at each other and hate each other’s politics. Maybe this was not so different for the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag.

Did our ancestors foresee a four-day holiday weekend hundreds of years into the future? Not likely. However, there was one thing they did that still resonates today. They showed up. They didn’t go to church, temple or mosque. They didn’t bring presents. They didn’t even look for a funny card. If there is anything that is as true today as it was in the 1600s, it’s that showing up means something. Showing up makes a difference.

In the United States of America, we all show up for Thanksgiving. It is the perfect holiday. Show up. Be nice. Eat. Drink. Pretend you’re watching football on TV. Fall asleep on the couch. Give everyone a big hug when it’s time to go home at the end of the night, bellies full. In many ways, Thanksgiving is a flawless expression of the human condition. I have surveyed both of my neighbors, and they agree that Thanksgiving is wonderful.

I feel bad that there are dueling narratives, although most people seem to accept the day for what it really was. I wish I could apologize to the Native Americans whose lives were marginalized over the centuries. But it’s almost like apologizing for our nation’s history with slavery. Some things are unforgivable, and the most meaningful thing we can do is work really hard to be better people.

What I can do is show up. I might bring a turkey. I might bring some cranberry sauce. I might even bring a pie. Peach is my favorite, but apple seems more appropriate. The other thing I will bring is an open mind, because if we have learned anything over the past 400 years, it’s that our differences make us more interesting, more accepting and more willing to appreciate a different view of the world.

I don’t know anyone who doesn’t love Thanksgiving. Time spent with people you love is time well spent. In the 21st century, Thanksgiving reminds us that we are an imperfect nation, grateful for our many bounties, but cognizant that our future can always be better.

Richard Reiss is the author of “Desperate Love: A Father’s Memoir.” He lives in Canaan, N.Y., with his wife Paula. Richard Reiss can be reached at