Sunday, April 6, 2008

Reflections on traditions

When my sons were younger, we had a few birthday traditions. Lasagna for dinner and carrot cake with cream cheese icing for dessert. I don't quite remember how they became traditions, but they did. Funny how I had forgotten them since both of my sons moved away from home. Funnier still, they remember them. At my recent birthday party, the food included three large pans of lasagna and three birthday cakes (baked by Vincent) of course they were carrot cake with cream cheese icing.

I was thinking about family traditions last night. How they give us a sense of history and belonging. Not just the birthday ones but others as well. When I was still married, my ex would have to travel sometimes. On his first night away from home, my sons and I would head off to our favorite Mexican restaurant for dinner. It started just because I wanted a break from cooking and after a few of these nights, my boys would come up to me and say "Tradition dictates we eat Mexican tonight." It was cute.

We had other traditions as well. April 15th was a favorite. We wouldn't mail our taxes until the deadline. At the time, the main post office downtown set staff outside to collect envelopes from last minute filers as they drove by. Not wanting to be left out of a group ritual, we went to be among our fellow procrastinators. Before leaving for the post office, we would leave a message on the answering machine that went something like this:

You have reach the head quarters for procrastinators anonymous, we can't take your call right now because it's April 15th and you guessed it, we're taken the trip to the post office. Leave a message and we'll get back to you when we get around to it.

Then, of course we would go eat Mexican. The message would stay on the answering machine for about a month just to play into the procrastinator thing a little longer.

I love all these memories but my favorite comes from when my sons were really young and I was so broke it wasn't funny. I had a 78 Ford Pinto that ran mostly on prayers. I couldn't afford to spend a lot of money on weekend entertainment for the boys so the Pinto was our means of fun. On sunny weekends, I'd gas up the car and we would take off to play a game we called Get Lost. I would drive out to the country somewhere and let the boys tell me where to turn. We would drive for hours enjoying the scenery. Then, When it was time to head home, I had to figure out where we were and get us back. It was an interesting challenge that has served me well over the years. Every time I lose my way, I think of that game. Spending time with my kids just talking about anything, singing along to the radio, those are my fond memories of tradition. What are yours?

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