My amazingly creative friend Becky Adams and her friends Scarlett and Maddy started a cooperative blogging group called “The Creativity Project” a little over a year ago in order to stay creative in the midst of pursuing photography as a business. It operates as a blogging “circle”; each person links to another blogger’s page in the group. Wherever you start, if you click to the next blog, you will eventually make your way around the circle and read everybody’s blog on the monthly theme. I am very excited and honored to be asked to join in; this month, once you’ve read my blog on “Holiday Traditions”, you’ll move on to Jersey Journal by DTB Photography and read Dan Beeler’s take on the theme. He’ll link you to the next blog and so on; I hope you’re able to make it all the way around the circle.
I started thinking about the theme, Holiday Traditions, and I realized that I’ve gone far enough down the road of life to understand that nothing ever stays the same. Even if you live in a small town, marry someone from that town, and stay there your entire life, there will be changes. Maybe you have a “Big Mama” and “PawPaw”, the family matriarch and patriarch, and they host family Christmas each year. Big Mama cooks a turkey, a ham, 8 different vegetables (casseroles, of course, with cream sauces and bread crumbs and LOTS of butter), 4 different breads, and an entire sideboard of desserts.
PawPaw goes out into the woods and cuts down the biggest, prettiest tree and brings it back for all of the grand kids to decorate (with strings of popcorn and cranberries and a load of ornaments that have been around for years). There are special decorations that are ALWAYS there, and you grow up secure in the belief that Christmas will always be just like that. Except that one day, Big Mama and PawPaw can no longer cook and cut trees and host the family. And even further down the road, one day there will be empty chairs where they once sat at the table, carving meat and encouraging you to take just ONE more helping of sweet potatoes. Maybe one of their children’s family will take up the spatula and chain saw and keep things going exactly as they’ve always been, but then again, maybe not. Maybe your traditions will simply become nothing more than memories, and you’ll have to carve out new traditions. Maybe you’ll move, get married, get divorced, have kids, see them grow up and move out. Maybe one day YOU will be Big Mama or PawPaw. So, how do you maintain traditions for a lifetime? Is that even possible?
I grew up with one set of grandparents (and the grandmother was actually my step-grandmother, although she always treated me as if I was her own grandchild). My father’s parents died long before I was born, and my mother’s mother died when I was 2. But my grandfather (Gran) and his wife (Nanny) always hosted us for Christmas dinner. Nanny was THAT cook; the one with so many food options that your eyes bugged out and you just knew that you wouldn’t need to eat for the rest of your life. They were able to stay active and host us all the way through my teen years, and I feel very blessed to have had that continuity. Once I graduated from college and got married, tradition was thrown out the window and I just began to “wing it”. Each season of life brought new experiences, and it seems that very few years have been the same. At nearly 40, I had our son Adam, and we had to settle in and try to create some memories for our boy. Even so, life kept getting in the way. My father died before Adam was born, so I needed to visit my mom in Tennessee, but I wanted my boy to have Christmas morning at his home. My husband’s mother died in 2005, and things changed in how we celebrated on his side. For the past few years, there was a bit of a routine in how and with whom we celebrated, but in August of this year, my father in law passed away at age 94.
And so, things change again. I’ve begun to realize that the BEST thing that I can do is to document, through photos (and blogging, if I can get myself back into the routine of it) so that my boy will have backup for his childhood memories. This post from my old blog is a good example of how I can help him to remember the good times (I had that blog printed into a blog book, just to make sure that I didn’t lose all of those memories). I will keep the elf, the quilt, the ceramic Christmas tree, and I’ll pass them on to my boy. But I have to understand that he may marry someone who has traditions of her own; I hope that they will work together to blend them, but some of the things that meant so much to us may simply get packed up or even thrown away. The best tradition to pass on is to enjoy life at each stage; to understand that while each season looks different, the one thing that will tie it all together is love. Whether you say “Merry Christmas”, “Happy Hanukkah”, “Happy Kwanzaa”, or celebrate any other winter holiday traditions, do all that you do with great love and you’ll create wonderful memories.