Not quite a family tradition
|With the last of the turkey leftovers being tossed into the trash, and the hallway lined with unopened boxes of Christmas decorations, I’d say we were in the thick of the holiday season. Even if local department stores want us believing Christmas begins before trick-or-treaters hit the pavement or Thanksgiving Day cooking begins.
Nevertheless, woven in the midst of all this holiday celebrating is something we like to call family tradition. Normally, I’m not too bothered by its concept nor am I unraveled by its existence since ‘breaking’ family tradition seems to be sewn deep into my family’s history. The break stemming from the avoidance of personality conflicts seated around the Thanksgiving Day table or the hearth of the Christmas fireplace. However, during the past few days, both of my daughters made similar comments to me on separate occasions regarding our family’s lack of family tradition.—what they perceived our family traditions should be.
The initial sting of their words provoked my defensive mode. "We practice family traditions."
After a quick mental search, I blurted out, "It's a family tradition to stay home on Black Friday." My lips pursed together in a ‘see, there ya go’ kind of smirk. Okay, so I know, shunning the massive crowds of frantic Christmas shoppers the day after Thanksgiving is almost un-American. All the pushing, shoving, grabbing, nasty trash-talking, fist fighting while snatching up the last PS2. Who wants to miss out on all that? I also know, Black Friday Avoidance isn’t your typical family tradition, but, they couldn't argue...we stayed home year after year.
Later, in the privacy of my own thoughts, I meandered down nostalgia lane, looking for more deep-rooted family traditions; ones originating long before I entered the world, or had been practiced since I was a kid. A childhood memory popped into my mind. December 3rd, year uncertain. The four of us; Renee, Lisa, Joey and I, stood in the kitchen. Still in our pajamas, we rummaged through cabinets for a different kind of breakfast. The beginning of the month meant the cupboards were filled with lots of possibilities. My little brother pulled some Breyer's ice cream from the freezer and reached for a spoon from the utensils drawer. The rest of us just stared at him in disbelief. “What?” he asked, as if ice cream was eaten for breakfast all across the country.
"That’s ice cream!" my sister Lisa declared. “For breakfast!” She paused. “What would Mom say?“ Then, her face changed expressions. Suddenly she saw the beauty of it. Last night, we had the family traditions talk with our mother about what we thought our family traditions should be. “What if we say this is our family tradition? We want to eat ice cream for breakfast on December 3rd of every year!” Ah, cunning logic, stemming out of adolescent zeal.
“Like it,” my sister Renee agreed, reaching for a spoon herself. But I wasn’t quite convinced. Not wanting to get into trouble during a gift-giving month, I offered a suggestion. “Let’s ask mom first.”
“What? Are you crazy?” Lisa squealed. “Mom will never go for that. Let’s just eat it and figure out an excuse later.” She dug her spoon deep into the ice cream for one more bite.
I still had trouble seizing the moment. I grabbed the carton from Joey before he knew what happened. Hiding the box behind my back, I said, “Joey, you go ask Mom.” Adding authority to my tone, I continued, “Tell her we need a family tradition and Lisa says this is a great one and we all agree.”
Obediently, Joey headed toward Mom’s bedroom. “Joey!” I yelled louder than I intended, “Don’t forget to say please and thank-you. ‘And say 'family tradition,’ so we'll get to do this every year.”
The three of us stood smiling. Mom would say yes. She was dead-ass asleep, passed out after watching the late, late Friday night movie, knowing the Saturday morning cartoon babysitter arrived before we crawled out of bed. Mom would be mad at the initial wakeup, but Joey, knew how to plead. The please/thank-you reminder unnecessary; begging was an art form he had perfected. I guess, being the youngest of six, survival dictates the development of certain character traits. It might take him awhile, but he would not leave the room without a ‘go’. Joey held the persistency card in the palm of his little sticky hand.
Meanwhile, we shoved our spoons into the now-soft ice cream. “Maybe we should wait until he gets back, you know, save some for him?" Renee said, licking the chocolate off her lips. Lisa yanked the box away from me and she tossed it back into the freezer. “It’s melting anyway.”
Ten minutes later Joey emerged smiling.
“Ice cream for breakfast,” he announced.
Lisa's fingers dashed through cabinets. “I know there are sprinkles around here somewhere.” I pulled the chocolate syrup and Cool Whip from the fridge and Renee grabbed a banana off the counter; stepping up the ante to Sundae for breakfast.
And so it was, a family tradition born out of a search for a custom to call our own. Over the years, the December 3rd tradition was practiced with less consistency than we would hope for. Mom didn’t allow ice cream on school mornings. So sometimes we ate it for dinner. Sometimes we forgot. I wasn’t persistent in passing along the practice to my own kids who only experienced the luxury on a few occasions.
December 3rd rolled around a few days ago and I received an email from Renee reminding me, too late I might add, to eat ice cream for breakfast. I had eaten a bowl of Cheerios. Prompted by the email, I in-turn emailed Lisa inquiring about her breakfast Carte de jour. She had eaten fried catfish for her December 3rd morning meal.
So much for family tradition.