Traditions give us security

Traditions give us security

This fall’s weather takes me back to the years of my childhood, a real treat in comparison to the weather for the 20 years I have lived here. I remember so distinctly the leaves were brilliant until Halloween, when they were brought down all at once by the first cold freezing rain. As soon as you could scrub your feet across the carpet and “snick” someone with a mini-electrical charge, you knew the real freeze was coming.

From then until Thanksgiving, every night brought lower and lower temperatures until the ground was frozen and we had to wear the dreaded “leggings” or “snow pants” beneath our skirts while walking to elementary school. Those girls whose mothers did not force them to do so were daring, cool, popular. We used to take ours off halfway to school, hide them in the cloak closet and put them on halfway home.

Thanksgiving was spent at grandparents’ houses a few hours away, and the ride home was the longest ever, waiting to see if the ice on the local ponds was now thick enough to skate. Measurable snow usually started in December, and the rest of the winter until the March thaw was spent skating and sledding.

Just closing my eyes, I can easily dredge up the feelings of excitement when meeting friends and potential crushes on the ice. There was always a fire to stave off frozen hands and feet. Games of crack the whip and red rover perpetrated many a broken bone, and an unexpected fall might generate a first kiss. It was traditional. When did it change?

So many traditions seem to have fallen by the wayside. On trick-or-treat night, we went tic-tacing. You cut notches in a wooden spool, threaded it on a rubber band, wound it up and placed it against someone’s window to noisily unwind. Thanksgiving belonged to family, and most families seemed whole.

Once your children are grown and building families of their own, you have to make choices. You have to change and share dates. If a family is broken, it becomes terribly complicated to figure out. Feelings are hurt, and little thorns become embedded all around, even if no one mentions them. Traditions used to die hard. Today they fly out the window at the speed of light.

On Christmas Eve, our traditions included church and coming home to a light meal of clam chowder and egg salad sandwiches, opening one gift and lying in wait for what seemed like forever, staring out the bedroom window, hoping to catch a glimpse of Santa.

Naivety was safe and warm and happiness provoking. We didn’t come downstairs in the morning to a room so full of presents that no one could walk through. There were a couple of gifts we had asked for and maybe one little surprise we hadn’t.

It is a simple given that life changes and we must change with it. A couple of those traditions have managed to survive at my house to this day. Christmas Eve still brings church, clam chowder and egg salad — straight out of the dish if you happen to be gluten free.

New Year’s Day cannot pass without the long tradition of pork and sauerkraut, this year made all the more special by opening a jar of my homemade efforts. Yes, the sauerkraut is good enough to become an all-new tradition for me.

Traditions give us security. It is so comforting to know you will be in familiar territory during the holidays. In our fast-changing world, it is easy to let them slide away. Old fashioned as it may seem, I hope to hang on to whatever I can, even if it is only in memories.

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