There are many reasons for us to do our best at keeping family traditions alive and going. My husband and I both are the product of families that celebrated many traditions. Whether it was eating at the same place every Friday night or the week-long vacation, traditions have always been something we remember about growing up. Some of my best memories are traditions my parents might not have even realized resonated with me. Eating pizza and watching TGIF together every Friday night back when there was no DVR to record it for us — a very small tradition, but one I’ll never forget.
Growing up, I can remember the excitement I had around the holiday season. It kicked off with a Thanksgiving lunch we held at the VFW, open to everyone and his neighbor to enjoy. We still enjoy this tradition to this day. We would also go to the movies on Thanksgiving night. We’d have an advent calendar and open each door or window to see what surprise was waiting behind them. On Christmas Eve we would eat chili together and watch the 24 hours of A Christmas Story marathon on TBS. Looking back it all seems so simple, but the impact it had on me, the excitement, has stuck with me throughout the years. As we come upon this time of year, I already have that same feeling, that excitement building up as another holiday season approaches.
As a mother of two little girls both under 10, I thrive off of their excitement for the holiday season. When my youngest daughter was four years old, she suffered from a brain bleed due to an AVM and aneurysm. She was a perfect little girl one day, and the next she was fighting for her life. It all happened in the blink of an eye. She spent a few weeks at STL Children’s Hospital and after her craniotomy, she was sent home to start her new life as an AVM & aneurysm survivor! It was one of the worst times, but then one of the best times of my life. When a tragic event or medical diagnosis happens, one relies on memories and traditions to help cope. When Maura Kay’s AVM ruptured, we talked with her in the hospital all the time about her memories and about fun times we had together as a family. It’s all the more reason for instilling traditions with your little ones after tragedy so their lives get back to normal as soon as possible.
While Maura Kay was in the hospital, we actually came up with a few new traditions that we observe during her follow-up appointments. We are huge New England Patriots fans, and Maura’s surgery was just a few days prior to the Super Bowl in which the Patriots were playing. We all changed into our Pats gear and watched the game as a family on her little tiny hospital room TV and cheered our hearts out. When we return for follow-up appointments, we always wear our Patriot’s gear for good luck. We stay in the same hotel before each appointment and bring our suits to go swimming. We eat the same supper each time. Now she looks so forward to the time with just mom and dad, and it’s her own little memory.
This year we’ve been lucky to be able to keep our traditions, despite the shutdown of the world. Our summer vacations we have with the girls include a trip to the beach and an outdoor camping or site-seeing trip. We are so blessed to be self employed and able to take these trips each year. We enjoyed our annual family vacation to Gulf Shores in May. Like every year, we packed up the van and drove across many states to get to that big, beautiful beach. We always go to the very same restaurant for supper that first night. We love watching the kids and how they have grown to expect these traditions each year.
Parents today face an uphill battle — creating cherished traditions while competing with the distractions of everyday life. It’s important to me that I try to keep a routine. To keep things somewhat “normal” for my kids. One easy way that I can do that is by keeping the traditions that we have, to the best of my ability. We will kick off the holidays with our family Thanksgiving at the VFW. Our Elves will arrive and show up in crazy places around the house. We will make cookies together and have an ugly sweater cookie decorating contest. We’ll go to Christmas Eve service, come home and watch Christmas Chronicles and Noelle. Like every year, the jolly big guy in the red suit will grace our tree and leave presents while my girls are sound asleep in their beds. We all know this year is different. Yes, it’s a year of many changes, but it’s also a time of togetherness. It’s a time that I’ve spent more time with my husband and children than ever before. Before the lockdown, it was a special occasion to have a family game night. It’s now a common staple in our home. I want our time together to be fun and special. In the years prior, we may have found joy in physically going to the movie theater to watch a family film. That’s not an option at the current time, so our new option is to pop some popcorn at home and watch a good movie on Disney+ instead. I absolutely love it!
There’s a famous quote that reads “At the heart of every tradition is a meaningful experience.” As a parent, I pray that when my children grow up and start families of their own, they will take cues from their childhood and carry on some of the simple traditions and meaningful experiences that I grew up knowing and loving. When I think of traditions, I think of togetherness, excitement, happy memories and routine. This year, living through a pandemic, I’ve been so blessed to have my family safe at home with me. We’ve still been able to practice our little traditions throughout this year, with a few minor adjustments. Whenever we reminisce about 2020, we will recall our resilience as a family and as a nation. The warm, fuzzy, exciting feelings we experience based on our traditions will ground us and provide comfort. We look forward to revisiting old traditions and creating new ones!
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