gratitude-a-thon day 742: tradition

 

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My world’s most favorite people (Jake is missing from this photo. Where are you Jake?!) Also missing, California Gabe.

 

Things change. People die. Traditions morph.

For as long as I can remember we went to my Aunt Chris and Uncle Louie’s for Thanksgiving. Uncle Louie was a foodie. Also he was Italian, so there was always way too much to eat. Also he was funny, so that’s always good.

I love his three boys, who are super intelligent and well read, hilarious, and like my brothers (if I had any). I was really happy to introduce my husband into the mix, and then  of course, my kids. There would be varying numbers of people over the years who celebrated with us, from 30, to later, when Lou began getting very bad dementia, just our family

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Rye bread, rye bread, rye bread. That is all.

In my little clan, we had a tradition, we always left Boston Thanksgiving morning, we always stopped at Rein’s Deli, our favorite deli halfway from Boston to Connecticut, and we always brought with us way too many mashed potatoes, or too many appetizers, or pie for every person (this is what happens when you’re Jewish & Italian).

Aunt Chris would always decorate the table with the most beautiful candles and flowers. We ate in a glassed in sunroom. She always used real china, and we always drank good wine, and sat around afterward holding our stomachs, wanting to puke, and wondering when we could eat again.

We always told family stories. Of the old country, of the old people, of those we’d lost, and those we’d gained. And always we laughed. A lot.

The next day, my kids would always beg me to take them to the nearby mall, because they loved the crazy mayhem. I always acquiesced. The mall is on the very land that one of the greatest yearly events of my life was located, The Danbury State Fair. Sometimes when I would walk around, I would think about what part of the fair used to be in that very spot. That place was magic to me. Disney World had nothing on the Danbury State Fair when I was 7.

Anwyay, the Thanksgiving before we lost Lou, Jake was studying in Barcelona, and we went there to spend it with him, this was our first real break with traditon, and it wasn’t easy. Then the first Thanksgiving after my Uncle Louie died was last year, and the crew came up and ate at our house. But this year they can’t, because of a recent surgery one of my cousins had. We are in the same boat, with Ally having just had her ACL rebuilt.

We will break tradition this year. Plus my sister and brother-in-law are going to be with his parents in New Orleans, so tradition is getting all sorts of trompled on.

Friends we love have invited us to their table. And we just might do that. But it will not be without some tears for me, for all the November Thursdays I spent in one of the houses I love best, with some of the people I can’t live without.

But that’s the thing about traditions, sometimes the only way they can continue is in your head, and in your heart. You keep going, allowing them to morph into something else, and taking the time to remember what was.

 

 

 

gratitude-a-thon day 646: shifting sand, the end of a tradition

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This has been a weird start to summer.

Usually when school ends, we head for the choppy waves on Lucy Vincent, for the rocking chairs at The Chilmark Store, and coffee and sandwiches, and pizza, the scallops at The Bite, the sunsets in Menemsha, the salty breezes that require a cozy sweatshirts at night, for the laid back feeling of sea air. We are programmed for cold rolls at the Farmer’s Market, oohing and ahhhing at Noche, Midnight Farm, Pandora’s Box and Bananas. We can’t wait for breakfast at the Art Cliff, or our first visit to a Bunch of Grapes for books. Wildflowers, and special summer cocktails, knocking buoys, and fog horns, long walks, sandy floors, and scrabble championships, brass rings, Kadema, ice cream at the Galley, fishing on the jetty, so many friends, Eileen Blake’s Pies and Otherwise, fireworks and tick checks. IMG_2799

This has been July for twenty years, my kid’s whole lives. (and nine years before they were even a thought). This is the year where what has always been, is not. There has been a break in tradition. School ended and we are not where we are supposed to be. My body doesn’t know what to make of it. Why aren’t I out of breath, from jamming the car with food, and suitcases, beach chairs and candles, and little white lights? Why am I still in Brookline? Where is the ferry? It’s those damn kids. They had to go and grow up. THE NERVE. What, did I think? That they’d follow in Peter Pan’s footsteps? But we had a tradition. A family tradition. It meant something. I’m quite certain it meant something to all of us.The first two weeks of July were sacred beach time on our favorite island. It was a deal. And I believed it to be set in stone.

But even stones can crumble.

I remember, like it was two days ago, when we’d have to drive the kids around in the car to get one or both of them to sleep, and now, their schedules don’t allow us to go see Martha. What will Island Mini Golf do without us?

It’s not just that we arent’t there at that place I love, that feels part of my DNA. It’s that I am forced to come to terms with the loss of a time when my kids were dependent, part of us. Stop the world for just a moment, because time has shifted the sands.

Not that our vacations were always perfect, or without arguments, bad weather, and unmet expectations, but that that time is now as over as Ben and Jen’s marriage. Poof. Once so much a part of who we are, now just evidence of who we were. I wasn’t ready. I thought I might be, but I see now, I wasn’t. Are you ever ready for such a seismic shift? Can you really prepare? I see now, I would never be ready, given the choice.

It’s not about saying goodbye to a place, it’s saying goodbye to a time. It’s waving off childhood. It’s a little like giving birth all over again, but without the good drugs, and people making you dinner. IMG_4868

A new life will begin. New traditions. As soon as I catch up to myself, I’m sure I’ll see how to build a new tradition. I will visit that Island again, and the versions of my kids eating breakfast overlooking the cliffs of Aquinnah, and grabbing for the brass ring, and kayaking, and building castles will be there. They will be there, those littler versions of Jake and Ally prancing around that island like they owned it. I will see them, in all the familiar places. Until then, I will have to remember that this is what I raised them to do. To grow up.