The Weird and Wonderful Traditions We Embrace.

By Allyson Morin

I go to college close to home, so where my peers go months on end without seeing their parents, I see my mother pretty often.  Funny enough, my relationship with her wasn’t that great when I moved out.  I was sick for most of my teenage years, and that sickness wore down our relationship pretty significantly.  On top of all the normal teenage stuff, the “Oh god mom, you’re embarrassing me!” and eye rolling, my mom was also tasked with micromanaging a lot of my daily activities, for a time.  You can imagine what that does to a head-strong kid.

I never appreciated her.  I never considered what she gave up on a daily basis to make my life more comfortable.  It wasn’t until I left home and got a taste of independence that I realized just how dependent parents are on the child’s schedule.  It’s everything–the kid has to get from point A to point B.  They need to eat, they need this, they need that.  There are traditions to uphold, an entire language to be taught, hell everything I knew up until a certain age was because she taught me.

My mom really enjoys traditions.  In her mind, if we do something once, we have to do it every year.  This makes me really reluctant to do things with her because I know that if I am agreeing to do one thing, I’m agreeing also to do it every year until I die.

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My mother (pictured right) and I (pictured left), Jan. 1 on our traditional New Year’s Day hike up Sugarloaf Mountain in Amherst, Mass.  It is the traditional hike because we did it once, on exactly this day, and now will continue to do so forever.

It isn’t that I didn’t enjoy these things.  It’s just that the prospect of the life-long obligation attached to these outings made me wary.  Why can’t we just live in the moment and enjoy this trip while we are here rather than attach such enormous expectations to it?

My mom has this thing she always says, “I just want to keep the trip going until it is no longer fun,” referring to her tendency to push our outings to the point of exhaustion or resentment.  I usually go along with it.  After all, I’m supposed to be the open-minded and spontaneous one between my sister and I.  I tend to go for the weird or off-beat.  I like to explore museums, antique shops, visit orchards, build bat-houses, or randomly hike an icy mountain in the wrong shoes.

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The weirdly warm weather meant the trail was entirely glare ice.  I expressed my displeasure in no uncertain terms.

This particular hike, on the first day of the year shortly before I returned to school for my fourth semester of college, was a moment of acute clarity.  I think the reason my mom keeps the day rolling until it is no longer fun is because she wants to squeeze every last moment she can get out of it.  It isn’t because she particularly enjoyed every second of it, in fact, the tail end of the Sugarloaf hike she was complaining louder than me.  It is because time is limited and it is going faster every minute.

My mom really looks forward to her traditions.  When she was married in February 1995, she picked that day so she would have something to look forward to in the dead of winter.  We go on a family hike up ragged mountain every Saturday after Thanksgiving.  We play cage bingo for scratch tickets every New Year’s Eve.  We go to the mall to paint our nails with free samples from Sephora every time I am picked up from school.  I plant a garden every year with my grandmother, at her urging.  I set up the classroom for her students every year.  I am tasked with making the table setting for every holiday dinner, down to personalized place markers for each person.  We go on a trip by train together every summer now for the rest of our lives–decided because we did it once last July.  And there’s countless more.

If I refuse to do take part in a tradition, you better believe my mother will call her mother, and then I’ll be bombarded with handwritten letters from my grandmother playing the death card.  “Oh darling, when I am dead and rotting in the ground you can stop making Thanksgiving decorations, which may be soon if you don’t hurry up and finish them.  Here, I have sent you these feathers for inspiration.”

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Here are the 2015 Thanksgiving place markers, courtesy of a package of feathers and a passive-aggressive note sent by my grandmother.  It is a wonder I am not in therapy.

My mother is exactly like her mother. They egg each other on, really.  My mom will present something new… a new trip, a new game to play, whatever it is, and my grandmother will chant, “Tra-di-tion, tra-di-tion, tra-di-tion!”and then my mother will join in and they’ll get progressively louder.

Much like I see so much reflection of my mother in my grandmother, I am beginning to see so much reflection of my mother in me.  We are becoming the same person as I get older.  I look forward to our weird and wonderful traditions, because as things in my life begin to branch out and separate, those things remain constant.  Traditions keep people around.  Traditions give you something weird, warm, and wonderful to embrace.

Everything my mother does is for the long haul, whether it is a commitment to her strange traditions or if it is for her commitment to me.  She is the special sort of person who takes on everything with optimism and total enthusiasm.  She has taught me the meaning of commitment and why it is important to uphold bonds with another person.  These lessons are invaluable and I will carry them for the rest of my life.

Thanks, mom.

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One thought on “The Weird and Wonderful Traditions We Embrace.

  1. Pingback: As My Grandmother Says, “Make Sure You Really Capture the Suffering.” | Stories for Strangers.

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