photo by Ukrphoto | Dreamstime.com
Each fall, my teenage son eagerly anticipates Thanksgiving. “How soon before we go to Nana and Pawpaw’s house?” he’ll start asking me in October. “Have you made the reservations yet? I’m ready to go now!”
Once November arrives, I start receiving IMs from his Georgia cousins, too. “Thanksgiving is SOOOON!” his cousin Jenna will write, “I can’t wait!”
Although Christmas brings its own special magic, Thanksgiving is the one time of year our entire family gathers to be together in Florida, where my parents live. It’s a tradition my mother started years ago; she wanted something the family would remember long after she and Pawpaw were gone. She wanted a tradition she could look forward to, for time together “with all my chicks in the nest,” she’s fond of saying.
When I lived in Boston, the prospect of leaving the cold, rainy northeast for Florida’s eternal sunshine was nothing short of glorious. Hanging out with my family was an added bonus. While it’s not quite as dramatic coming in from Memphis, 20 years later, the traditions of that holiday week together remain the same.
There’s the Thanksgiving Day golf outing my brother always organizes for the guys, a lunch and shopping for the girls, a day at the beach (regardless of the weather), gathering together at day’s end to enjoy mom and dad’s gracious plenty, the kid’s table (even though the kids are practically college-bound these days), and afterwards, storytelling around the fire pit. That’s probably one of my favorite times, listening to my mother tell stories about her growing up time in England, the glow of the fire reflecting its warm light on these people I’ve known and loved so well.
Of course, a few traditions have come and gone. The kids used to love hiding out in the Ti Bach, a tiny house my dad built in the backyard that became their official clubhouse the moment they arrived home. But otherwise, much else remains the same, which is a good thing.
While I’ve never been much for traditions, once I had a child, I began to appreciate how we all relish the loving predictability traditions hold. We know what to expect and with that knowledge comes a certain comfort and joy, an affirmation that all is right with the world.
Traditions are a way of strengthening family bonds, a way of communicating our values, a way of showing our care for each other. While I haven’t created a host of traditions around the holidays (owing to the fact that I’m often participating in them elsewhere!), we do have one at our house: Waffle Sunday.
Waffle Sunday started when my son’s friend, Richard, would spend Saturday nights with us. On Sunday morning, while the boys were still sleeping, I would make waffles from scratch. They’d awaken to the rich smell of bacon and waffles, then we’d sit down for breakfast in the dining room and talk about what was going on in their lives.
It was a way of connecting with both boys, and was always a pleasant way to start a Sunday. Even though we don’t see Rich as much these days, we hold fast to that tradition.
As I write today, my 17-year-old is busy outdoors on this crisp November night, assembling our Christmas lights. It’s a tradition he anticipates each holiday season. It started around the time he was 10, not long after we’d moved into our new home, and every year, the yard becomes a twinkling beacon for the neighborhood as he follows his passion and creates a tradition of his own.
Tonight he told me he loves the instant gratification doing the lights provides. “After just two hours work, you have something to show for your effort,” he says enthusiastically. What I love is having a memory of his exuberance and care, a tradition I’ll cherish long after the holidays are gone.
CORRECTION: A story in our Early Years column (November 2012) suggested making rattle shakers using beans. But as Mayor Sharon Goldsworthy of Germantown pointed out in an email to us, toddlers can be curious, determined explorers. Therefore, make sure you don’t use beans for play objects with children under 5, since these can be a choking or breathing hazard if inserted up a nose. Please note, too, that infants and toddlers can drown in as little as 1- to 2-inches of water.