Thursday, April 11, 2013

J is for...

Joy-filled Traditions

How wonderful it must be to speak the language of the angels, with no words for hate and a million words for love!
~Quoted in The Angels' Little Instruction Book by Eileen Elias Freeman, 1994

The older I get, the more I reflect on the traditions of my childhood, instilled with the love of my parents. Not the big things, but those little things that lay nestled in my heart like spoonfuls of warm chicken noodle soup. My mom always made a double-chocolate cake layered with vanilla pudding and chocolate chips for each of my birthdays and my dad’s ode to the Fourth of July was a lighted flare staked in our tiny front yard as my siblings and I cheered and clapped with glee.
I always waited for Dad to come home from work, sitting on the front steps with a scuffed and tattered baseball clutched in my hands. It was his tradition to toss a few pitches to me before going into the house to greet Mom and wash up for dinner. And, on snowy Chicago winter days Dad made it a tradition to help me run my paper route with his beat-up Chevy station wagon. He’d drive through the snow while I bundled the papers and tossed them onto front porches. It was then I soaked in his best advice, “If you’re going to do a job, do it right.”
I’ve carried on some of the traditions of my childhood with my daughter. For example, when Danni turned seven I bought her first two-wheel bike and taught her to ride, same as my parents did for me and each of my siblings on our seventh birthdays. I also make her a lunch for school, same as my mom did each and every morning for years. Sometimes I tuck a note inside.
My husband and I have also begun a few of our own family traditions. We love leaving little notes for each other—taped to the car’s steering wheel, tucked beneath a bed pillow, at the dinner table, slipped into a pocket or shoe. The favorite Danni and I share is notes on the bathroom mirror. When she started to drive, I began to leave sticky notes for her each morning. “Have a great day. I love you. Be safe.” She framed the mirror with them, and then one day the notes disappeared. I thought she’d thrown them away, but later cried when I found she’d tucked each one carefully into a shoebox for safekeeping.
Traditions are the vines that connect memories and lives. What traditions do you share with your family…your friends?


  1. Oh, Mary, you and I share a love of traditions. I especially like the ones I didn't plan. My children insist on chili for Halloween night...mainly because when they were little, it was the quickest homemade dinner I could manage and still get four little, wiggly, costumed bodies out the door and home before bedtime. Now it's a time-honored tradition my grandchildren enjoy too!

  2. Those are beautiful traditions! We always read together every night, and we eat most of our meals together, even breakfast.

  3. My mother always made black-eyed peas and cornbread on Jan. 1st - "for good luck," she said. :) Hubby and I still do that, as do several of my siblings. Not for good luck...just because it's a great tradition and everyone loves it. It's most fun, of course, when we invite the whole gang over to share the good food. :)

    Mary, I love your memory of waiting on the porch steps for your dad. I always waited for mine, as well. He'd drive up, and my whole world got brighter. I can still see him getting out of the car, tired and dirty from working on the farm all day, carrying his lunchbox in one hand. I'd dash out to meet him, and he'd always catch me up in the arm that wasn't holding the lunch pail. I loved to rub my cheek against his, because it always had a heavy 5 o'clock shadow about that time. Then he'd take me inside and give me the cupcake or candy he'd brought me in his lunch pail. Precious memories!

  4. Mary, you just took me down memory lane. For several years I did like Tanya and made chili on Halloween night for the very same reason! Your tradition of waiting on the front porch steps for your Dad to come home is another. We had two very large rocks along the side of the driveway entrance, and every day my mom, brother and I sat and watched for Dad to come home from work. I could go on and on and write a book about family traditions and the happiness my family has shared. My favorite is that every single holiday since I was born has been celebrated in the house where we live. My grandparents built this house in the late 1920s, a few years after they arrived in Grand Rapids from The Netherlands, and 5 generations of us have celebrated holidays in this "home." I have a sign above the French doors that lead out to our front porch that announces the living room as "The Gathering Room" and we have gathered here together for all occasions, happy and sad. This house is my tradition. It holds memories of nearly 65 years for me. I'm blessed!


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