Tradition

It’s funny how a simple question from another person can resurrect memories that you hadn’t thought about since childhood. Someone recently asked me about my family’s Christmas traditions, and it made me reminiscent. I began thinking about all our traditions, and some things came to mind that I hadn’t thought about in ages.

My favorite childhood tradition was playing cards at Grandma and Grandpa’s house. Almost every weekend we would drive over to their house after dinner one night to play Pitch. They would have the kitchen table pulled out away from the wall, and the playing cards would be sitting on the table next to a pen and paper to keep score. Grandma always had some kind of goodies to serve us, which Mom rationed so we wouldn’t have a sugar high before bedtime. Homemade popcorn was made, ice tea was served, and as soon as we’d drawn cards for partners, we sat down at the table and the game commenced. No matter how many times we heard Grandpa call someone a Ninnyhammer, our laughter was just as loud as the first time. The game was always fun. Grandma could be counted on to mistake a heart for a diamond and get flustered enough to cuss. Grandpa could be counted on to make a risky bet and take his partner down with him when it didn’t pan out. “I got what the little boy shot at” was Granddad’s way of saying that he got nothing…made zero points. And we would all laugh, him included.

Tradition is what keeps a culture alive. The wedding ceremony involving a bride in white being given away by her choked up father is one that has held on. But we really have very few that belong to the American culture. Thanksgiving might qualify, although I wonder if anyone pays attention to the reason for the holiday anymore…to give thanks. The Christmas celebration would qualify, but it’s become a commercialized event focused on gift-giving as opposed to a religious holiday. Nonetheless, they both bring families together and that’s reason enough.

What events held importance in your life? For me, the year progressed as follows: In the winter we built snow forts and looked forward to ‘snow days’ when we could stay home from school. Dad would tie sleds on the back of the snowmobile with ropes and pull us around (over frozen cow pies…funny what you remember). Mom would bake things that made the house smell good when we came in to thaw out from sledding. Spring was branding season. The neighbors helped us at our brandings and we helped them at theirs. They involved a lot of work followed by a lot of good food. Easter came, which meant a new Easter dress. In the summer was baseball, two games per week and practice with dad behind the shop. By “practice” I mean my dad would hit balls to my brother and me on an uneven field cut by a windrower. My brother and I fought over the number 34 jersey, Kirby Puckett’s number. We put up hay in the summer, every day that it didn’t rain. There was always at least one inner tubing trip down the Cheyenne River, followed by camping. The muddy water dried on you and cracked on your face when you opened your mouth wide. It was a race to the shower when we got home the next day.

We always took a family vacation in August: Disneyland, Yellowstone, Minneapolis for a Twins game and Valley Fair, and when we were older, a cruise in the Caribbean. (That was the first time I ever saw Mom drunk. Tequila Sunrises go down a little too easy.) In the fall, raking leaves and jumping in leaf piles sticks in my head. Halloween was thought about well in advance, because my mom would sew us some of the coolest, most elaborate (and most uncomfortable) costumes you’ve ever seen. Because we lived in such a remote area, trick-or-treating beyond Grandma’s house was out of the question, so the community threw a big party for the kids. There was candy, games, costume contests, bobbing for apples, and tag outside in the dark. November brought hunting season. Friends and family would come, bringing with them gifts, stories, laughter, and a great reason to make chili. Thanksgiving was our biggest holiday, and usually included dozens of family members and a houseful of chaos. But Christmas was my favorite because Mom and Dad would point out Rudolph’s nose in the sky on our way home from Christmas Eve mass (as a ploy to get us to bed in a hurry). Christmas day was a small gathering of just my family and my beloved grandparents, and it included plenty of free time to play with new toys.

I think about these things as I plan for the kids I don’t have yet. What traditions will I carry on for them? Undoubtedly, the things that hold importance to them will surprise me, just as the things I recount from my childhood surprise my parents. Just goes to show that you can’t plan the moments that will be sealed forever in time.

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. dale sanford
    Jan 26, 2011 @ 01:35:36

    Damn girl!!! I would not have expected you to turn out so good with the written word. I’m predicting a book deal. Maybe you could write a great american novel that people relate to. You have affected me with your words. I look forward to your next museing.

    Reply

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