One of the most fun parts about family life is partaking in family traditions. These could range from little inside jokes to elaborate holiday gatherings. No matter the style or size, it’s the bonding that matters. I’ll start by sharing a few of my family traditions and what they mean to me.
My oldest daughter and I go to a favorite Italian restaurant when she has an annual medical specialist clinic visit out of town. We don’t have this restaurant near our home and she really dislikes the clinic visit. So it’s a nice distraction and it gives us something genuinely special to look forward to. She has banned anyone else from going with us – she gets me all to herself every time. Talking about scary doctor stuff is always easier over a huge plate of ravioli.
When I was growing up, my parents and sister and I drove to Florida every Christmas to visit my maternal grandparents. The first day of travel was pretty boring. The first few states away from our home state all pretty much looked the same. But the second day was a different story. We counted the signs for “See Ruby Falls” all the way through Tennessee (though we never stopped to look). We had waffles at The Waffle House, no matter what time of day it was. We played the same Christmas CD for most of the trip. When we’d finished counting signs, had our waffle, and got tired of the CD, we knew we were just about there.
My mother’s side of the family is big on Scrabble. My husband doesn’t really play and my kids aren’t quite old enough to do it. So I can almost always count on the Scrabble board getting pulled out on holidays at my parent’s house. Of course, mom wins nearly every time, and my sister is the best competitor with her. I’m glad to get second or third. I’m bringing up the girls on Scrabble Jr, word finds, and other word puzzles. So I’m hoping that in a few years, I’ll have another real player in my home. That’ll be my secret weapon against Mom and my sister – extra practice.
It’s not so important what the tradition is exactly – it’s what it means or gets people to do. The tradition with my daughter and me is about keeping her relaxed regarding her doctor’s appointment and any uncomfortable news or treatment plan we come away with. The traditions about driving to Florida were about helping us kill time during the long taxing drive. The tradition about Scrabble is about remembering my maternal grandfather (who we visited in Florida) and enjoying our love of words together.
The side effect of these traditions is to provide memories that are unique to your family. They stamp landmarks in time and in relationships. Some of the details may fade over the years, but the warm feeling remains. My grandmother (lived in Florida) died with severe dementia. It’s no secret that my mom could have a similar fate. So if I, too, have a weakened memory in my later years, I hope that I still get to keep that warm feeling.