Sunday, December 07, 2008

Sunday Afternoon Tea

These Sunday posts are always about my ponderings during the week. Sometimes they come as an entire idea, or remembering an event or person, often from what has happened during the week. Then there are those times when a phrase pops in my head and won't go away. That is what happened this week and this is the thought...

"Traditions are to our year what routines are to day-to-day life."

Hmmmm... that was good food for pondering all week.

I am certain it is the Season we are in which led to such thinking. For if we have Tradition in our life no other time of the year, we certainly do at Christmas. There is that sense of "we've always done this" or "now, what was that recipe Mom used each Christmas when I was home?"

Routines are important each day, even if they are only those seemingly unimportant times of brushing our teeth without thinking, nap time for small children, knowing the laundry needs to be finished today and grocery shopping tomorrow. Those every day routines that lend stability to our lives and provide safe boundaries for the young.

They change throughout the years. Well, not the brushing teeth part (at least I hope) but changes in family life and ages of children certainly bring about the tweaking of routines. I can still remember when Christopher gave up his nap time... sigh.

I used to have a routine of walking two or three miles a day, a lovely time alone with headphones playing Rocky Mountain High or Our God is an Awesome God. Years of chronic illness no longer allow for long walks but my John Denver and Rich Mullin CDs remind me of days past. :)

When I wake up to the aroma of bacon and coffee, I remember my mother's morning routine. Although being the chief cook and bottle washer of the family, that doesn't happen unless I'm visiting elsewhere. Still, it brings fond memories. My husband grew up in a very structured home and always knew there would be hamburgers for Saturday evening dinner, a stop at the grocery store after church on Sunday for bread and eggs, laundry on Monday, and the weekly "big" grocery shopping on Thursdays. Routine... the stuff our days are made of...

But then there is Tradition, just saying the word brings a smile to my face. Not the legalistic traditions that accompany some groups but the joyous "we always do it this way" that brings with it warm memories of Holidays past.

There are the same foods served each year, attending Christmas Eve services, opening our gifts at a certain time, Advent calendars with chocolates behind closed doors, secrets abounding and watching out that "certain persons" are not allowed in the room as we create or simply wrap another's creation, baskets filled with favorite seasonal books, the reading of The Christmas Story on certain evenings or mornings, candles lit, stories told of past Seasons and loved ones long gone to their rewards... generations today building on the stories of generations past.

Not too long ago, my cell phone rang and it was Stephanie telling me she was in the process of a very important teaching session for the next generation. For in my home, the decorating of the Christmas tree was a pivotal event of the Season which I wanted to do myself... until Stephanie was trained and became even better at it than her mother.

This year... while the older children napped... Elizabeth was stepping into that magical (Narnia magic) world of bringing a tree to life. As her mother and I talked, Stephanie would stop to remind her that the larger ornaments were placed on the bottom of the tree. Of course, there would be "tweaking" by Mom a little later but the training of the next generation had begun... a Tradition would continue.

Some family traditions come and go due to circumstances changing, ages of children, marriage and the dissolving of marriages, family members no longer with us, friends moving far away, and the general uncertainty of life. But that is why holding on to at least a few Traditions is so important... bringing consistency in a world constantly changing.

As I made Thanksgiving dinner last month, two of the recipe cards were now yellow with age and stained from the many Holidays they were laid out on the counter as the food was prepared. Each showing the familiar type of my mother-in-law's typewriter and the age of the cards a remembrance of my own length of marriage... for they were given to me as a bride. Other recipes this Season given by my mother or one of my sisters... those with me and those gone on already. But all living through the preparation of the food for which they were famous.

On Saturday, we travailed through horrible driving conditions (snow on top of ice) to meet my husband's siblings for a late breakfast in a nearby town. Although we had made our home warm and cozy for their arrival, the conditions of the roads and their long trip ahead made it necessary to change just part of our Tradition. We would have food and fellowship together at a restaurant near the off ramp of the Interstate so they could easily get on their way to my sister-in-law's place close to Chicago.

Not perfection but still good... two hours of remembering and laughing as the waitress brought us more coffee and cream. Life will never be perfect and Traditions must be "tweaked" from time to time but still necessary in this changing world. Good words, thoughtful ponderings...

"Traditions are to our year what routines are to day-to-day life."


Kristi in the Western Reserve said...

I love traditions, even while I recognize that you are certainly right; they change slowly because circumstances change. In high school I read a book by Maria von Trapp called something like Around the Year with the Trapp Family Singers and longed for Sunday afternoon advent tea such as she describes there. And when I married Paul and I started this right away (and it fit into his Austrian/Hungarian background very well.) Today I'm getting ready for it with Alice, Nathan, Mike and Andy. First we sing advent and Christmas carols in three or four langauges with our family songbook around the candlelit advent wreath and afterwards we will have supper together. (I was thinking about those languages - We sing a lot in German, English and Hungarian, but also French and Latin......It's such a joy even though we are NOT great singers!)

Vee ~ A Haven for Vee said...

Oh good! I thought you were going to say that you were unable to visit because of the weather. It's wonderful to be flexible. My pastor's wife would often quote, "Blessed are the flexible for they shall not be broken."

Traditions: I love'em and hate'em. Your comment about them is one of the first positive things I've heard about tradition in about 20 years. (A pastor who was always taking potshots at "tradition" has probably been the root of this.)

Marianna said...

I love reading your perspective. I'm still in the midst of creating traditions and memories and routines. My children are 9 and soon to be 7. I did not grow up in a home with lots of routine and tradition and it is something that I'm making a concerted effort to give my own children.

Anonymous said...


I really enjoyed reading your thoughts about traditions. I've often chided myself about not making more of an effort to create certain traditions with the children when they were younger. However, I'm realizing that even though I haven't always been intentional, they have been formed all along. My daughter is good at reminding me.
I am finding that as my children enter their teen years, we are definitely tweaking and having to create new traditions according to their tastes and age. It's fun though and ok. So good to know that the "rules" can change as we all grow and change.
Thank you again. You have such wonderful insights!

nanatrish said...

I'm so glad you got to meet your in-laws for breakfast. I remember when you did it last year. You were the first blog I started reading regularly and I can't believe a whole year has flown by. I pray you have a wonderful Christmas season.

Heather L. said...

Hi Brenda,
thought of you today while we were trimming our tree. I followed your advice and put on the red balls first (towards the center) and then the kids filled in with the other ornaments. The tree is still waiting for me to go back "later" and fix their work. However, it's looking quite nice. :)

judy said...

Lovely thoughts about 'traditions' In many ways they do form a safe, reliable, and constant foundation for life. I really enjoy afternoon tea with you!

Sorry to see you had to make changes in the comment admin -- thinking it may mean there were some unkind vistors . . .

Anne said...

I am happy to have discovered your blog today. I have already subscribed and look forward to reading your insightful and soothing words!

My family has two great traditions - one is on birthdays, waking the birthday person up by singing to them and giving them their presents RIGHT AWAY! It's a fabulous way to start a special day, surrounded by those who love you best. The other is Christmas BINGO. This is a long tradition to describe, but it's my very favorite Christmas tradition. The entire family can participate and it's lovely.

Traditions, when they truly fit your life, are wonderful things. It's those traditions that I want to happen because they seem like such good ideas but they don't actually fit our lives that become a burden.

From a fellow midwesterner. :)