Holidays and traditions, I grew-up with a strong dose of them. In my family, each holiday brought with it a very definite set of rituals and traditions, largely focused around various ethnic foods and familial gatherings. It was good stuff, and I liked the predictability and specialness that each occasion brought with it (often because we would eat really good foods that we would never have at other times of the year – what can I say, I am Italian-American and that’s just the way we rolled.) As an adult and a parent, I have the opportunity to make, carry-on and/or create traditions with my sons that hopefully will have their own magic for them similar to what I experienced as a child, and though some things hearken back to the traditions of my childhood, many do not. One of the biggest differences is that their father and I are divorced and so holidays are now spent with one or the other parent and each carries with it its own meaning, meals and memories.
So one of the biggest differences each year is that holidays don’t always mean family anymore, at least not the way it used to. The way it works out for our family is that some holidays are always spent with one particular parent, the boys are with me for Christmas Eve and Christmas and with their dad for New Year’s Eve and New Years. Thanksgiving is a swap off holiday – the boys spending every other year with the other parent and holidays like Easter, are determined by the regular weekly rotation. It’s a bit of a smorgasbord for all four of us (there’s an Italian saying which would be perfectly interjected here, roughly translating to: “A little of this, a little of that, a little of the other thing”.) It works for us for the most part and the boys seem to feel comfortable with the mixture of familiarity and fluctuation that are our new “traditions” if you will.
For me, this year Easter was spent with my friends since my boys were with their dad. I had given them their “Easter baskets” in the middle of last week, since I wasn’t sure that would be a part of his plans for them and what kid doesn’t look forward to the chocolate and jelly beans? I had a lovely day, great weather, good food, stimulating conversation, a lovely walk, laughter, warmth and appreciation for the people in my life. Yes, I did miss my boys, but it did not distract me from enjoying my day. Growing-up I would have never guessed that my holiday would be spent with all friends and no family, with ham and macaroni and cheese instead of frittata and Easter bread, with a lovely walk instead of an Easter egg hunt, but my enjoyment of the day was there just the same.
I think sometimes we make assumptions, that life is a certain way, some things are a given and a constant and will always be the same, but the reality is that this is of course an impossibility. Even those members of my family who gathered for the traditional brunch found themselves sitting around a table with a family constellation that looked different from how it did the year before. And this to me is not a bad thing. There may be times when I “wax nostalgic” for the memories of years passed, but I still appreciate the new. The fact is things change, continuously, allowing yourself to move and change with it expands the possibilities. Hopefully my sons will bring forward into their adulthood a mixture of tradition with flexibility; an appreciation for the old and an embrace of the new, and a sense that the outer trappings are less important than the internal spirit that they bring to the special moments in their lives, the confidence to know that traditions carry a sense of history and familiarity but are not so rigid that they cannot be changed to incorporate new circumstances.