Wednesday, December 16, 2009


My mom was always big on traditions when we were growing up. I think it had a lot to do with the fact that we were a blended family, and she and my dad wanted to make sure we built memories as a family. It gave us all something to look forward to each season and at the same time we could look back to past years and remember what we had done.

I am reminded of a tissue paper craft I once did with E. We had several sheets of colored paper which we cut into different shapes, and then glued onto waxed paper. We layered the different colors, and then put a black contruction paper frame around it. When we held it up to the light, the colors blended and overlapped, as well as stood out in contrast to each other.

My families' past is like that window of light that E and I created. Each memory is like a scrap of tissue paper. The memories might different colors for the different years, but each shape is the season or holiday that defines it- Christmas may be squares, Easter circles, or summer vacation the triangles. My parents kept that shape for us in the traditions we kept. The colors might have changed as the years went on, but what shaped our memories stayed the same.

I have been thinking about these memories as Ed and I try to shape the seasons and holidays for our own family. We too, have built traditions into our lives- apple picking, valentine breakfasts, July 4th parades, and of course the many ways we celebrate Christmas throughout the month of December. This past Saturday we decided to introduce the kids to a new tradition that I had enjoyed as a kid- the light show in Center City. We took the train down to Market East, and walked the block to the department store.
When my family used to go, it had been "Wanamaker's" now it is "Macy's". The memories came back as we entered- I knew exactly which way to go, even though it has been almost 25 years since I was last there. The place was packed, but we got a spot to watch as the lights dimmed and Julie Andrews' voice rang through the store. It amazed me that the show was exactly the same, although in the modern times of the Comcast light show in 3-D, the kids weren't as impressed or thrilled as I remember being when I saw it for the first time. We then followed the flow of the crowds up the escalators to the Dicken's Village display of The Christmas Carol .
It too, was exactly as I remembered it, although we didn't have to wait in line back then- I remember racing through the display with my siblings a couple of times as we were the only ones there. This year the crowds snaked through the display, shoulder to shoulder. The kids listened as I read the story out loud to them from the posted signs, but it felt a little rushed, and I think it may have been hard to hear with all the background noise.
The one thing that was missing was the real electric "El" in the kid's department. It used to run around the ceiling, and my sisters and brother and I would get a thrill as we rode it and looked down on our parents waiting below. I understand that it is now on display at the Please Touch Museum, but it doesn't run anymore.

We didn't linger in the city, as it was mid afternoon and K was ready for her nap. On the return trip home the kids discussed their favorite parts with us (predictably, the train ride). I don't know if this will become a yearly tradition for our family, but in sharing this part of my childhood with my children, I am sharing part of myself, part of who Papi was, and in turn, it becomes part of who they will be.

1 comment:

EEEEMommy said...

I love the way you write about traditions! Tradition is very important to me too, but I wouldn't be able to articulate it as beautifully as you have! Sharing yourself with your kids as they experience the sights and sensations you once experienced is invaluable! I appreciate you sharing yourself with us as well in your writing! Papi would be proud!