Traditions

Standard

So, under the construct of this blog-a-day-in-December plan, a few serendipitous things happened with the timing of topic suggestions and where the calendar fell. Not the least of which was that my 25th request was for “traditions.” As you may know, the 25th of December is Christmas Day – what could be better for talking about traditions?

However, as sometimes happens, real life got in the way of serendipity. Nearly ten members of my family descended on my tiny apartment for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, where I proceeded to cook a feast of seven fishes, a full holiday brunch, roast beef tenderloin, and about a million appetizers. And then things got really crazy with work. The blog suffered and I made no post on that day or for many days after. As my one friend would say, “le sigh.”

Despite not writing, I was, nonetheless, thinking about family and holiday traditions. But, here’s the thing. We don’t have many. Is that weird? We’re sort of an eclectic, decentralized bunch. We love each other a lot and enjoy getting together, but we’re inconsistent.

Sometimes the holidays mean travel; sometimes they mean staying close to home; sometimes we exchange presents; sometimes just hugs. They usually mean eating turkey. We didn’t this year, much to my dad’s chagrin.

Almost universally, my family values adventure. My one brother skipped the family affair to drive his RV to the outer desert to bake in the sun with his girlfriend this Christmas. My other brother is spearheading an excursion to Oregon in a few weeks to forage for truffles in the woods. At 77 and 71 years old, my parents are currently plotting their fourth move across the country. Me? I’ll be on planes six times in the next four weeks. It’s in our blood.

Family Adventure: Early Days

Family Adventure: Early Days

Family Adventure: Early Days

Family Adventure: Early Days

Family Adventure: Early Days

Family Adventure: Early Days

It made me wonder… can adventure in and of itself be considered a tradition? Every year the sous chef and I plan one big trip (Alaska is a serious contender this year), which I suppose is a bit of a tradition? My brothers have both traveled the world, but have always somehow made it back to live in southern California. My parents never fear moving, but always end up as homebodies, wherever they land. When we do gather as a family, it’s rarely be in the same place and the players vary, but the food is always good and the bickering is always measured with laughter.

In the end, tradition seems to be what you make of it. It could be doing the same thing every year, or making it up all new each year. I think that what really matters is to simply love what you do and to never stop doing what brings you joy.

On that note, I have airline tickets to book. Later.

My first flight: Solo at six years old

My first flight: Solo at six years old

Advertisements

How food, and sitting down to eat, is such a unifying experience

Standard

My mother is making me crazy. They are the first to arrive tomorrow for a whirlwind week of family and holiday insanity. Her arrival has been preceded by three phone calls. The first required discussing my sister-in-law’s gift and how she did not understand why the Lululemon sweatshirt that I recommended was any different than the sweater she picked out. Ok. Then buy the sweater. She ultimately chose neither.

The second was a brief call during my workday because she had an emergency. Turns out that the emergency was that her best friend from law school needed a stuffing recipe. I deemed this an issue that could be addressed the following day (a Saturday) and told her so. Follow up emails on the matter were received.

The third call, meant to simply verify airport pick up plans, turned into a conversation about how she now intended to make chocolate mousse cake upon her arrival. I tried to explain that I’d already spent the better part of the weekend orchestrating the menu and grocery shopping. She replied that she knew her way to the store near our house and would go on her own. That’s about the point that I just put the phone down.

It’s a tale as old as time. Kids are driven bananas by their mothers. And mothers are exasperated by their kids’ lack of patience.

Surely my mother's favorite Christmas with me, before I could talk.

Surely my mother’s favorite Christmas with me, before I could talk.

Thank goodness there’s food. Over food, everyone calms down. Traditions are remembered. Old stories told. Laughing usually dominates arguing.

Unlike meals, board games will bring out the worst in your family at the holidays. Look at my mother's sly look as she is about to go in for the kill.

Unlike meals, board games will bring out the worst in your family at the holidays. Look at my mother’s sly look as she is about to go in for the kill.

Whether with friends or family or even strangers, a meal can unify like few other activities. There’s a collective agreement on the process of a meal, plus, it naturally engenders conversation. With mouths full, you have a moment to think before you speak. With bellies full, you feel satiated – you’re not looking to fill any gaps, physically or emotionally.

Everyone brings a little something to a meal together. Whether it’s the food itself, or colorful commentary, or just some wisdom. You’re expected to contribute. And, you’re expected to respect the contributions too. And, you’re generally expected to have a good time – let loose, tell a joke, burp, have the extra glass of wine. A meal, most often, is joyous.

My family will need this in the next few days. And, likely, your family will too.