I made caramel rolls yesterday…already made a loaf of bread for supper and chicken stock to make chicken soup for dinner for all of my sickies.
I'd also attempted to work on a few work necessities but technology wasn't my friend yesterday. The scanner wouldn't come up and my Cricut refused to cooperate. About half of my to-do list for the day involved those two items and it was a little frustrating. When all else fails, I spend some time in the kitchen. Things usually work for me in there.
I love caramel rolls. They're yeasty and gooey and sugar-y…and so good. They're also a food I remember eating every Christmas at my Grammy and Papa's house (although with pecans, but I didn't have any today). In a season filled with food traditions, those caramel pecan rolls are still one of my favorites.
I've been thinking a lot about traditions over the last few weeks. It was even the subject of one of my Wednesday night classes at church a few weeks ago. Traditions are important — and they're so easy to marginalize.
Traditions provide checkpoints where we can pause and slow down. I force myself to wait until the day after Thanksgiving to put up the tree and put on Christmas music. It's a cue for me to slow down and begin to savor the holiday season. The Charlie Brown holiday specials have worked the same way for me since I was a child.
Traditions create memories and communicate love. My grandmother has created an amazing tradition of quilts as gifts for milestones. High school graduation, marriage, babies…I don't know of any better tradition to commemorate a special accomplishment and communicate love all at the same time. In fact, I sleep with my high school graduation quilt every single night and have for years. It's a Grammy hug even when I'm far away and I find that pretty special.
Traditions add rhythm to our schedules and lives. We tend to think of traditions as holiday related, but simple daily things can become traditions as well. We clean the house once a week, together as a family. When I was growing up, Saturday morning was our time to clean. I try to get it done on Fridays so we have a clean house and a free Saturday, but it's still a tradition.
In many ways, the traditions we take part in let others (and ourselves) know who we are as a family. Some of my favorite holiday memories are times spent at my Great-grandparent's home. There was family and friends and people I'd never seen before. Everywhere. There were kids at the kitchen table, the grandparents and great-grandparents in the formal dining room, my parents and their generation in the sitting room, and more tables set up in the family room. There was always a place for anyone who might need one and never too many around any table. I remember being about 8 years old and getting to sit in the formal dining room with Gram and Gramps, my grandparents and the others. I was so proud that Gram thought I was old enough to join them that I can still remember the chair I got to sit in (it's at my grandparent's house now and I have to fight the urge to try to sneak it home with me).
Traditions are a comfort, much like the stuffed Snoopy that Caleb carries back and forth to California with him every time we fly. That Snoopy has now flown nearly 50,000 miles and is the first thing Caleb packs for every trip. It's made many a grumpy TSA agent smile, too.
Traditions are flexible — they can change and grow as our families and their needs change and grow. I have to remind myself of that. We began celebrating St. Nickolas Day when the kids were quite small. Originally, it was a little something fun. The kids would put their shoes out and Santa's elves would fill them with candy and a small gift. When we moved to Florida and went home to California for a few Christmas's, St. Nickolas Day changed. It became our day to celebrate Christmas with just the four of us. The things we normally did on Christmas morning – reading the story of Jesus' birth and singing Him Happy Birthday – they got moved to St. Nickolas Day. It was when the kids opened their big gifts from us. Last year, we stayed in Florida for the first time and St. Nickolas Day changed yet again. Santa's elves still brought candy, but they also brought a game for the entire family and holiday pajamas for the kids.
Traditions are what we choose to make them. My Mom's family is large, with lots of kids and even more grandkids. Getting everyone together on Christmas wasn't really possible, so for years everyone got together for a big family party the weekend or two before. The location rotated every year and who made it and who didn't could vary. There was always, however, a white elephant gift exchange…which included in years past a giant sombrero, a high school era statue of my Mom's head (which came back the following year wearing a helmet) and a giant frozen fish head. There was always great food, and way too much of it. And there was always lots of time to catch up and laugh and remember.
I am so grateful for the traditions I grew up with, as well as the ones we've built in our own little family. I am grateful that they give me a platform from which to share with my kids the love and legacy of family members they never had an opportunity to know. I'm also grateful for the way traditions help me to instill in my children the things I believe are important. And perhaps, more importantly, I am grateful for the way traditions connect me to family when we're so very far away.
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