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Tuesday, May 11, 2004

A bowl of tradition

When we first got married, Zahava and I moved into our first apartment and immediately began dividing up our turf. Not the physical space, or the possessions mind you (she got all that), but rather the ‘tradition turf’.

Like many new couples, we each had our fond memories of how holidays should be celebrated, and what foods were appropriate for different occasions. Most stressful was the fact that we each had cherished family heirlooms that needed to be displayed and used, and we anticipated a tug-of-war over whose traditions would prevail and become ‘our’ traditions.

All these years later it’s funny to think about that period in our life, and how we needn’t have worried. Traditions will take on a life of their own if you let them. The very essence of building a family is the natural blending of traditions, old and new.

Zahava’s great-grandmother’s candlesticks are the ones she lights each Friday night. They aren’t fancy, or even particularly valuable. But when my wife sees her reflection in the polished surface where her great-grandmother once stood…the value is beyond rubies. If neither of us had inherited a set of candlesticks, there would still be a tradition. We simply would have been the one’s to start it.

When our oldest was born, we brought her home from the hospital dressed in the same layette gown in which Zahava had been brought home. The blanket in which she was wrapped was the one that had warmed all the children in my family as babies. Each of our children has shared this same attire for the trip home from the hospital, and with luck (and care) so will theirs.

My grandmother was an avid quilter, and unwittingly created a family heirloom while quilting a blanket from scraps of my older sister’s baby cloths. In her mind she was being thrifty. But my kids see only a comforting tradition and a link to a woman they never had the privilege to meet.

What started me reminiscing about traditions is a recent milestone that Yonah has reached: Solid food.

Now, calling the stuff he consumes solid food is a bit of a misnomer. It’s mush, plain and simple. But being parents we need the label in order to check off those milestones.

Yonah’s mush is prepared and served in the porringer from which I ate my earliest mush (as did all my sibs). Each of the cousins has had their turn swilling mush from the porringer, and now that my nephew (my brother’s son) has moved on up the food chain, my parents were more than happy to bring the porringer here for Yonah to use. Watching him eat from this little metal bowl may not seem like much of a tradition to some…but for me it is like time travel. With each spoonful I see all the babies who have been fed…and who have then grown up to feed their babies.

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The traditions Zahava and I inherited /created have become the fabric of our marriage and family life. Without them we would simply be roommates and babysitters. The portability of these traditions has made our migration bearable for our children…and connects them to the family we left behind.

Living in an age where ‘disposable’ is considered a good thing, I’m glad we have so many things worth holding on to.

Posted by David Bogner on May 11, 2004 | Permalink

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you are so sappy.
(i just LOVE it)

Posted by: Lisa | May 11, 2004 2:42:45 PM

Thanks (I think) ;-)

I was going for 'maudlin', but I'll settle for sappy.

Posted by: David | May 11, 2004 3:12:27 PM

What a beautiful bowl! I have not received from my mother most of the "family things" quite yet. She is still "enjoying them herself," I have been fussily told on more than one occasion. However, when I visit and see her using a certain cake plate, serving tray, or somesuch item, I too have a flood of memories and emotions.

Posted by: Another Lisa | May 13, 2004 6:33:08 PM

I just read this... must have missed it when it actually posted.

REALLY nice and yes, mushy (pun intended!)

Posted by: Val | May 18, 2004 10:57:24 PM

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