Boots, hats & mittens…check. Camera…check. Dunkin Donuts hot chocolate…check. Super Excited Can’t Wait to Do This Attitude…check. Remind my husband that the weekend after Thanksgiving is absolutely the best time to get your Christmas tree and it really won’t fall down on you three times this year after we decorate it…check. Buy a new, improved tree stand to replace last year’s…damn, I knew I’d forget something.
Traditions. We all have them, need them, live for them. They are the moments we recall from childhood of the hopefully warm memories spent with family or friends doing the same activity or celebration each year. I love tradition. It makes me feel safe, comfortable and in a life full of continuous changes, like something may actually stay the same if I can hold on to it in my head. I also love building traditions for my children. My favorites include trick or treating with our cousins, Thanksgiving in an overcrowded dining room so we can all be together, decorating the kitchen the night before the kids’ birthdays and leaving a trail of gifts in their bedroom. Vacationing on “our” lake in Maine with our extended family and playing Monopoly until late night (which is 9 pm in Maine). And of course, cutting down our Christmas tree.
Now there are some traditions I could live without. Wondering what the going rate of the Tooth Fairy is at the time of the lost tooth. There is just no consistency there. And the crazy Elf on the Shelf I started last year. Hiding that little guy is a commitment. And then forgetting you put him in a bowl for safe keeping in the back of your cupboard and mindlessly taking him out in the summer when using the bowl and having your kids be traumatized by the sight of him sitting on the refrigerator. “I thought he lived in the North Pole!” they exclaimed. “Well, just like Santa he’s always watching for good behavior and he stops by to visit every now and then. You never know when he’s around,” I explain. A bit creepy and they were over it and back to their normal behavior in less than an hour. Not sure if it’s worth the commitment.
There’s something amazing that occurs when we create traditions for our children. Besides the fact that it gives us something to look forward to, it reminds them that no matter how crazy life can get, we always have some semblance of “normal” to rely on. It may be a special dinner to celebrate the little things or love notes in their backpack. Or the same book they read once a year or songs sung on certain occasions. Maybe it’s the way you tell them you adore them that no one else can recreate. No matter what they are, traditions offer comfort and consistency that we may not get anywhere else.
There’s also something amazing that occurs when we follow the traditions we create. It reminds us of the past years and how much our children have grown and either how much we appreciate them or how quickly they are growing up and how desperately we want it to slow down. We recall the past memories and laugh at the folly or cry when we miss someone who is no longer experiencing it with us. Retelling stories and reliving memories in the here and now of togetherness and musing over what will happen next year. Traditions reflect where we’ve been, where we are and where we hope to be.
As time goes on, I hope to continually be creating more traditions with and for my children. Partially for them, but mostly for me. Miniature glimpses of time and space I will hold on to, to keep the fast paced life seem a bit slower, fuller and with reason to remember the little events which make our days meaningful. And with any luck, I will remember to buy that new, improved tree stand to make next year’s memories just that much better.