Monday, October 26, 2015

Making Over Our Traditions

I find tradition warm and comforting, kind of like how curling up in front of the fireplace with a glass of wine and a good book is warm and comforting, likely because my aversion to change gently redirects me toward familiar activities and behaviors. Throughout the last nearly 12 years (how long I've been married), and even more so throughout the last nine years (how long I've been a parent), I’ve worked hard to build a tradition-rich life for my family. By blending traditions from Tom’s childhood, traditions from my childhood, and brand new traditions created with my children in mind, we’ve established ways of celebrating holidays, special occasions, and milestones both big and small that feel beautiful and authentic to all four of us, and to our extended families as well.

One of the hardest parts about moving to a new city, state, or country is saying goodbye to the familiarity of home. From our houses, friends, and jobs to our regular schedules, preferred grocery stores, favorite restaurants, and yes, local weather (I had to throw it in there), we have to replace comfortable and predictable with foreign.

When we moved across the country close to five years ago, we left behind all we found familiar, including some of our favorite traditions. We can no longer visit the apple orchard, pick buckets full of our favorite varieties, and spend the afternoon making fresh apple crisp, apple pie, and crockpot applesauce. We can no longer make snow ice cream, build families of snowmen, or go sledding on school snow days. And we can no longer spend our fall Saturday afternoons raking up huge piles of soft, brightly colored maple leaves to jump in (and then repeating the process over and over and over).

After moving we also had to accept that some of our traditions would look different going forward. I can't teach my kids to ice skate on a lake in the middle of winter, but I can teach them to ice skate at our indoor skating rink on a hot summer day. We can't pick strawberries and make strawberry jam, but we can pick blueberries and make blueberry muffins instead. We can't cut down the perfect Christmas tree and haul it home across the snow on our sled, but we can pick out the perfect tree from a local Christmas tree lot (or remove our artificial tree from its box in the attic) and sing Christmas carols while we adorn it with lights and ornaments.

Along those same lines, I had to accept that fall trips to pick pumpkins wouldn't involve bundling up in boots and sweaters knitted by Tom's mom and wandering across farmland and through groves of trees to reach the patch.

But when I finally let go of the familiar, I discovered the alternative wasn't too bad. Actually, the alternative turned out to be quite delightful…surprising the kids with new pumpkin shirts, walking to the neighborhood pumpkin patch, taking pictures of the kids in front of a make-shift pumpkin backdrop with the sun setting in the background, and laughing with friends while all of our kids roll in the hay.

Not bad for a tradition make-over.

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