I am writing something a little different tonight. This is for the fan participation for blogger Idol. This is the first assignment which is to write about our family traditions. Tuck in, lets see what I've got.
Holidays are the center of so many traditions in families and in this, mine is no different. We are a group who love this touchstone of repetition so full of meaning. Rituals we all participate in. They are the underpinnings of our shared lives and the things we cling to when the world gets hard. First, comes Halloween. At the crack of 9:30 ish I make my way to the kitchen and hit play on the cd player (yes, I still have one..they are classic) and music fills the house. That would be Christmas music. And it will be the backdrop of our existence every day until Christmas night comes to a close. No exceptions. I love the range of perplexed expressions on the faces appearing at my doorstep, as little dragons and princesses come to the door, parents trailing behind. Jingle Bells blaring in the background. The celebratory season has been christened in, with "Silent Night" and "Grandma got run over by a reindeer." Thanksgiving brings with it the opening of the first Christmas presents. Just before dinner and after the dressing of the Christmas tree. My daughters always help and we finally, all agree that their grade school ornaments of Popsicle sticks and glitter now live at the back of the tree. With their age, comes wisdom. I spend most of this holidays in one of two places, first the kitchen for a big breakfast and then straight on to dinner preparation. A meal that will be served at approximately 1:30. This is crucial. That dinner is hitting the table and everything is served in the time it takes the Dallas Cowboys to get back on the field of play at the end of halftime. I can then be found on the couch yelling my approval or disappointment at the TV. That this special feast has three main entrees often surprises visitors . There is a turkey for my oldest daughter, a chicken for my youngest and a ham for my son. I have done it this way since they were old enough to ask for what they wanted and the process is repeated for Christmas. My own little love gift. Through out the days that bracket these two holidays, gifts are opened on a haphazard schedule. One every five days or seven. Nothing about this is written in stone. It might be something little and full of special meaning or something too big to be kept secret. There are big reveals and simple trinkets tucked into a pocket or purse. We wear santa hats as each of the children take turns being that day's elf, handing out treasures. It is a title of honor . No one ever loses track of whose turn it is next. The night ends with a trip to the movie theater. There is sure to be something great playing. We come streaming in. Taking up a whole row. We pass two big containers of warm popcorn that has been mixed with peanut m&ms back and forth amongst ourselves as the previews roll. It is not unusual to find your hand being grasped by a smaller one with a softness only children possess. Even as my children have grown, they will still reach for my hand. It means even more now, that simple gesture. The hands have grown, all bigger than mine. It gives my heart a little flutter every time.We come home to desert. Which is homemade pumpkin pie and one of apple, with a New York cheese cake to round it all out. Whatever is left will be the next day's breakfast with coffee and hot chocolate.
There is always sparkling apple cider on hand. Even now that my children are all grown, they still look for their own bottle which will be chilling in the kitchen. Always. Everyone gets a new ornament. One for my tree and one for their own. I try to pick something special and chances are as good as not that they will not be meant for a Christmas tree at all. A stuffed little purple elephant or a miniature silver pig are just as welcome as snowmen or crystal angels. We take turns singing "Fleas on the dog" to Feliz Navidad. Each member must come up with a new verse. It is a favorite part of the season and we all try to break the others composure by slipping in the most farfetched, ridiculous words we can imagine. If you laugh, it is your turn to sing.
We have other traditions that have nothing to do with the calendar. On paydays, when my children were young we would listen for their father's work van pulling into the drive. As soon as we heard it we would all scatter. Looking for a new place to hide. My son favored tucking himself between the mattress on our king size bed. His oldest sister liked closets and behind chairs. I hid with our youngest daughter, usually in cupboards or cabinets. I would spend the entire time, while I waited to be discovered, trying to keep my daughter and myself from bursting into the giggles on a mad Hatter level. The closer he came to us, the harder it was to stay quiet. My husband would speak out. He would bellow out jokes and call silly names, all in an attempt to draw us out. To make our laughter give us away. When everyone had been routed out, it was time for a treat. We would order pizza and watch movies all snuggled up on the couch until we were too sleepy to keep our eyes opened. And then we would fall asleep together on the living room floor. There is also the ritual of the ducks. Which entails me wandering through one store or another with three little ones behind me. Every time we lost sight of one or another, the call would go up. "Where are my ducks?" I would ask. One by one they would each quack back at me and find their place beside me once again. I still ask "where are my duck?" even though my little ones are almost all bigger then I am and all in their twenties. They still call back to me and it warms my heart. An ode to those years so long ago, when my children were still little, before time sped up making them each more adult like. Yet, still I will always see my little ducks in those grown up faces.
Now, there is our first grandson and life is wonderful. I spend my time playing and cooing at him waiting for the day that he too will quack, like his mother before him, and he will too have his own bottle of cider. As I fill carts with toys we will share I look forward to the days ahead. And think up new traditions we will have. Ones that are all his own.
PS I just thought of our first new tradition. This Thursday when my grandson turns one, (he had his birthday party last weekend) we will take this new little family to a special dinner. This will be a treat, as they are just starting to make their way in life and dinners out do not happen often. I will bring a special gift for each of them. One for my lovely daughter, who is such a beautiful mother. To my son-in-law, who is an attentive husband and father. And of course, something extra special for that child they created who holds my heart. This is just a token to say thank you to them all for enriching our family and sharing their blessings with all of us.