True Confessions of a Mom: It’s Tradition
Confessions of a Mom: It’s Tradition
“It’s Tradition” is a phrase that I grew up with. When my sister or I would ask why we were doing something my mother would say “it’s tradition”. When we asked why we had to go somewhere for Christmas, we were told “it’s tradition”. That response was taken at face value. No other explanation was needed and we didn’t ask further. It was if this word TRADITION was shrouded in some sort of deep mystery that we weren’t allowed access to. We participated in family gatherings happily and laughed loudly and enjoyed the hours of chaos because it was, in fact, tradition to do so.
As a child, I don’t think I really understood or appreciated tradition and the value it held until these monumental moments in history ceased to exist as they once did. People age, families change and the darkness of death steals loved ones that were the cornerstone of keeping tradition alive. Busy is the new normal. We can’t have Sunday dinner because we are “busy”. We can’t travel to Christmas because we are “busy”. We can’t sit and talk to each other because the TV is on and we are tired from our “busy” day. Pretty soon, all of the tradition is memory and has been replaced with varying forms of busy.
Ok. So it is possible…….and by possible……I mean probable, that my family took tradition to a whole other level. From the outside looking in, our traditions may seem odd….crazy even (and there are plenty of people who have married into this family who loving and patiently would agree with that statement). However, those of us born and raised in these traditions loved and looked forward to them.
It may help to know what some of these traditions are. I get it. You need written, photo and video evidence that these traditions happened. Ok. I can help you with that.
Tradition Number 1. Tree Train
We grew up going to Northeast Tree Farms every year to get our Christmas tree. Why? I don’t know, other than it was “tradition”. We were so privileged to have my Uncle and Aunt live in the same town as us and most everything we did included them!
Every year the day after Thanksgiving (based on work schedules) we would meet at my mom’s house, get our grungy boots on, bundle up and caravan out to the tree farm. We would all walk out to the acreage of trees (passing the perfectly good precut tress as pointed out by my husband) to find just the right one.
When we found one we liked we would stick a child by it, or hang a glove off of it and go offer our assistance to, usually my mother, who couldn’t decide on a tree. We would flag down the workers and have them chainsaw it down for us and we would carefully string them all onto the roof of a car while quietly complaining about the price increase in trees from last year.
We started at one house and got the tree in the stand, then to the next, ending at my mother or Uncle’s house for hot cocoa, coffee and cookies. We would laugh at the scrape on the ceiling that was a reminder that my Uncle always thought he had cathedral ceilings and didn’t.
One year my husband Jeremy suggested we just drive a mile up the road and get a tree from the Kiwanis stand. The room became deafeningly quiet as eyes all met and collectively started starring at Jeremy. He then stated “or we could just keep it like it is”. Wow. Can you even believe he would suggest a tradition killing idea like that????
Tradition Number 2. Christmas at Grampie and Grammie’s.
There are few other traditions that make me happier than thinking of Christmas the way it used to be. We would travel to New Hampshire to my grandparents’ house on Christmas Eve. When we were close, my dad would tell my sister and me to look for the exit number and see who could see it first. The memory of walking into their home floods my mind in sensory overload. I remember it would be beautifully lit up. Candles in the windows, and a Christmas tree in every room. No other lights on but all the glowing Christmas lights. Cozy and comfortable the way it should be. There would be Christmas music playing from the stereo and the distant sound of my grandmother on the phone could be heard. When you rounded the corner to the family room you would see my grandfather on a stool by the coffee table doing last minute wrapping. It was perfection. My grandfather would always read The Night Before Christmas to us in front of a roaring fire, followed by the Christmas Story from The Bible. We would lay out our stockings and milk and cookies and head to bed (usually with pink sponge rollers in our hair so we would be pretty and curled in the morning…..of course most of those pink sponge rollers would be found under my back in the morning….go figure) waiting for morning. Christmas morning was always filled with excitement and family. My grandfather sitting on his black stool splattered with red paint from years of use, diligently handing out presents, one at a time so everyone could see what was being opened.
It would take hours……and nobody cared. Countless refills of coffee and mounds of wrapping paper later we were done.
You would think that would have been it. Maybe in an ordinary family, but we are extraordinary!!
Next up was our extended family Christmas! Great Aunts and Uncles, cousins, people who weren’t family at all, but were adopted in.
We would have a huge Yankee Swap, amazing potluck followed by dessert goodness. Then it was time. What everyone was waiting for. The singing. You see I come from a large musical family, and if there is not singing…..well it’s just not a family get together. Everyone would be separated by Soprano, Alto, Tenor and Bass and we would sing Born a King, a Christmas musical. I have a tape recording of my family doing this in 1972 (long before my birth) so it has been going on for quite some time. We have a piano player and sometimes people are randomly playing trumpet or trombone, maybe a French Horn and always Uncle Bob directing.
It is a treasured time. There is laughter as we mess up our parts, and there is always a small group of not so musical in-laws hanging in the kitchen together picking at left over dessert as if they are part of some secret society. If you glance over at them, you can see that they would rather eat Comet than participate in this Partridge Family meets Osmond Family Christmas Special. We don’t care. We sing away anyways.
When our vocal chords are tired out, we go and do our second favorite thing…..seconds on dessert. The night creeps on and before you know it, hugs are given and goodbyes are said with the promise of “next year” on everyone’s minds and lips.
Here is the thing….we no longer do these traditions to the extent we once did. I feel sad that my children won’t have these same experiences and memories that my sister and I did. I dislike change. I enjoy the familiarity of things remaining as they are. I know that isn’t possible. What then, are we supposed to do in the face of losing precious traditions? I say we TAKE OUR TRADITIONS BACK!!! We refuse to let them sink into nothingness and be no more than a story we tell our kids and grandchildren. We embrace the change of tradition and strive to make it as meaningful as ever!! We may have to scale it back and that is ok. We do this for the ones aging who can no longer do it as they once did. We do it for the middle life dwellers who are so busy and consumed that they don’t take the time for it. We do it for the young ones so they grow knowing the value of family, friends and tradition. My goal is that when my grandchildren are asking why they have to get up so early on Christmas to travel to Grammie and Grampie’s house the only answer they get and need is: IT’S TRADITION!