I was born in 1962. Growing up with my parents and three brothers, Christmas was always a special time of year. I am the youngest of four boys so Christmas morning with the six of us gathered in the living room usually meant quite a few gifts under the tree. It was usually my oldest but occasionally my second oldest brother who sat next to the tree, picked up a gift, read out the name to whom it was for and we passed it along to that person. Then as that person read out who the gift was from we all waited as they opened it to see what it was; this usually brought spontaneous comments or laughter. There was no frantic tearing of paper by each person regardless of anyone else but rather a sincere wish to share in the pleasure of each person with each gift and acknowledge, with thanks, the giver.
The women of my family have shared the tradition of gardening and preserving. Since 1915, and well before, the women tilled the prairie soil, planted, weeded and harvested vegetables. At my mother's knee I learned to can tomatoes, make pickles and preserve just about any kind of vegetable. We used her mother's and grandmother's pots and a battered and beaten tin pie plate that traveled across the ocean in the early 19th century. I still use the stained and yellowed pages of recipes handed down for generations. And the tin pie plate still serves as a tray to hold the sterilized jars for all sorts.
The picking of wild fruit was always a time for the women and girls to gather and take to the bluffs and woods collecting pail after pail of wild fruit. The elders would tell stories as we working the heat of late summer. It was a special time. The sound of laughter and stories, wind rustling in the trees, insects buzzing about and the sweet taste of the fruit. We used an 1835 wood stove to cook and can the fruit into pint jars. The filled jars were lined up along the kitchen table so the afternoon light would shine thru them. The stained glass jewels cast patterns on the table and floor; ruby and claret reds, golds and oranges and mint greens. We drank cups of tea, admired our efforts and remembered the generations before us who did the same.
As they say, you tend to appreciate things when you are older that you once detested as a child...every Sunday morning we went to church as a family, and then came home and cooked a big brunch. While I often fussed and fought to get out of going to church, the hearty and sweet smell of eggs, bacon, pancakes and syrup, toast and jam was always something to look forward to. This of course was MY favorite part of the morning and when I got to be a bit older (9/10), I was the one who wanted to orchestrate cooking brunch. Timing, of course, is everything...it is quite a skill to have all the parts cooked and still warm and ready to eat all at the same time! When I got even older (15/16) I did not always quite make it out of bed for church in time, but when my parents got home, brunch was ready, steaming hot on the table.
This is a tradition that I know I will carry on when I have a family of my own someday. Family conversation and time together over a meal is so precious...I thank my parents for instilling this tradition in me.
Saturday Afternoon at the Library...
Spending Saturday morning/afternoon at the local library for an hour or two.
It was wonderful, doing this with our mom engendered a lifetime love of reading and gave us time to explore our individual intellectual interests.
By the way, I read "The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich" by William L. Shirer when I was 10 years old because of interest in the Holocaust generated by trips to the library. I share this because I am convinced that my lifetime engagement with academic scholarship was stimulated by exposure to family time at the local library early in life.
The Road Trip...
I had many wonderful mentors growing up who taught me many things I cherish to this day. As a Canadian teen one of my fondest memories was attending residential sports camps at the various universities where we got to stay in residence, use the sports facilities and just take in the campus atmosphere in general.
When my son was born I decided to introduce him to this experience as I hoped he might enjoy it as much as I had. He was born in the summer so every year to celebrate his birthday the two of us packed up the car with rollerblades, lacrosse sticks, footballs, soccer balls and little more than a hockey bag with the bare essentials in clothing and headed off to a different province, checking into a university residence upon our arrival.
Many people are not aware of it but most universities open up their residences to the public as they are vacated by students at the end of the spring term and not in use again until the fall. The rooms are Spartan with little more than beds, desks, shared washrooms and no air conditioning. The facilities on the other hand are phenomenal; large gymnasiums, Olympic sized pools, well stocked libraries and beautiful, peaceful campuses.
I started this adventure with my son when he was only five and he soon began to look forward to our yearly road trip. We eventually developed a plan where our goal was to visit every province in Canada before he started high school. On his fourteenth birthday, a couple of months before his first semester of high school, we reached our goal by traveling to Newfoundland where we stayed at Memorial University.
We have a map of Canada proudly displayed with a green dot on all of the provinces indicating each of the university residences we stayed in. It serves as a testament to the journeys we took together as father and son. When we think back on our adventures there are no memories of theme parks or lavish five star hotels. However, I do hope my son remembers the quiet times we spent together reading in our room at the University of British Columbia, or playing soccer on the field at Dalhousie University or maybe when I took his picture beside the Olympic Oval at the University of Calgary.
My son is older now and will be getting his driver’s license soon. I worry that as he becomes a man he may forget those special times he and I shared staying in those small simple rooms. He recently told me someone at the gym asked him about the Lakehead University t-shirt he was wearing. In response he proudly recounted the story of our yearly road trips to celebrate his birthday. The older person who asked him about it simply smiled and said, “That’s cool.” I couldn’t have said it better myself.
He's not heavy, he's my brother...
When I was growing up in the 50's and 60's, my father had a sort of benediction that he repeated every night. It went like this: "Always remember: In some houses, they say, 'I am not my brother's keeper.' In this house, we say, 'He's not heavy, he's my brother."
This was a profound, powerful message that continues to shape my life.
It's always been an unwritten rule that if anyone of my three children (when they were below the age of 21!) were out visiting friends in the evening they would call at midnight is they were not yet home. If they were unable to make it home for whatever reason I would always get a phone call letting me know where they were and who they were with. As a mother, this was very calming information at midnight!
I grew up (and still am being only 18) in a small town called Castlegar in British Columbia. You can look outside anytime and the landscape is just breathtaking, people travel the world to see the kind of thing I see everyday. Almost every Saturday night when hockey night in Canada is on, we watch the Canucks game or any other game that is on and eat hamburgers and french fries, it may be a small tradition but we have carried it out for as long as i can remember.
We didn't have a lot when I was growing up, but we never felt like we were missing anything. Every year on our birthdays, my sisters and I were allowed to choose exactly what we wanted for our birthday dinners...anything...and what kind of cake we wanted our candles to be put on. Some meals were obviously more extravagant than the budget normally allowed (I LOVE grilled steak), and some choices and combinations were downright odd, but it made us feel so very important on our special days. After a meal of all of your favorites, made and presented exactly how you want, who wouldn't feel tremendously satisfied? I honestly don't remember the details of most of the wrapped gifts I received, but I always remember the meals.
Every supper meal includes my wife and our two children. No TV and NO phones. Our tradition is that during this meal one of us announces "high-low" and chooses a person at the table. That chosen person then needs to describe the highest point of their day and their lowest point of the day. Once completed that person chooses the next until everyone tells their "high-low." This tradition has taught listening skills, creativity, public speaking and on and on. It's great we love it and will continue it forever. As an added bonus every guest that eats supper with us must participate. Not one person has ever declined.
I love you...
My mom never made a promise she couldn't keep.
She also always made sure the last thing we said to each other before leaving the house or going to bed was "I love you." This way in case something unforeseen occurred then the last thing you said would be words of love and not anger. It also taught me to tell the people around me that I love them.
A cup of coffee...
In our home growing up in the late 50's early 60's (we were 4 siblings) we had a standing rule. When my Father got home from work he and my Mom would spend a half hour together in the kitchen over a cup of coffee discussing their day. We were not to disturb them during this time. We then had a family dinner together. I think this contributed to their closeness and made us a healthier family.
Face the adversity, think of one's blessings...
I think of my mother's toughness, her stoicism in the face of adversity. The other day she wrote and expressed fears about her diminishing eyesight, but in the next sentence said that for a woman her age she's been so lucky to be as healthy as she is. That, right there, is how her thought-process works. Face the adversity, think of one's blessings.
In turn, that leads seamlessly to the tradition of service and open-handed generosity. Toughness, self-sacrifice, service, responsibility for the well-being of others, and generosity are all bundled together. Accept the burden, think of one's blessings.
Since she was four, I've taken my daughter on early evening walks. What started as simple "together time" evolved over the years into a wonderful ritual of discussing whatever might be on our minds -- God, politics, school, friends, responsibility, integrity, trust and truth.
The walks have become a sanctuary of sorts; the "rules" (understood by both of us but never explicitly stated) make it a safe haven for exploring difficult subjects. We've told each other things about ourselves and our lives that simply don't come up in other circumstances.
Many nights, our conversations don't get past the routine "how was your day?" sorts of subjects. But we've also used them to tackle difficult topics likes friends who try to monopolize your time, the influence of media, peer pressure, the nature of truth, the importance of keeping one's word, and a person's responsibilities to themselves, their family, their community and their society.
Our walks didn't start as a tradition or even as a purposeful effort to learn and understand each other better. They were just walks. But, over the years, they have become a powerful mechanism for staying connected with each other. As my daughter enters her teenage years, I'm hopeful our tradition will help her navigate the difficult challenges ahead.
Our tradition, in our family, was one of arguing. Not over whether or not we wanted to clean our bedroom or do the dishes. It was to form an opinion and do so while respecting the other person. Most of our family, immediate and otherwise, argues over issues such as politics, local issues, or even macro global issues.
This was how we were raised, not to be spectators, but to argue and ask questions.
Bonding with Parents...
One of my favorite family traditions is simply playing with my parents. My brother, Ben, and I played with each other, but it was always special when my dad came home from work. We would hear the garage door open and rush to greet him. He would swing us around by our arms or let us "ride" on his back. The same kind of physical bonding is to my mother. She would stroke our hair before we went to sleep or she would playfully push us on our beds, only to push us down again when we sat back up. My parents did many other things for Ben and me, but the physical bonding always solidified their love for us.
The Site on a Hill...
Your wonderful book rekindled some traditions of my own when I was a student at Boston Latin High School, the oldest public school in America. High up along the walls of the school auditorium are the names of many of our illustrious graduates, from Cotton Mather to Leonard Bernstein. But one name really caught on with me: Ralph Waldo Emerson. My father, a hardworking, struggling businessman, did not own many books, but one author he truly appreciated was Emerson and he had managed to buy a set of his works. He used to quote from them often and that intrigued me. My love of reading came from my mother; and the high school I attended demanded a great deal of reading in order to even survive there.
So not only did I read Emerson, but I was lucky enough to visit him, i.e., the site on a hill in nearby Franklin Park, where only the foundation remained with a plaque commemorating the site. And it was there that I would travel to whenever I wanted to be alone with my thoughts. Well, not really alone; R.W. was always with me. Now, some 62 years later,I have him and my parents to thank for this tradition.
I wish I hadn't seen it on T.V....
When my daughter was a child during the 1960s and 70s, we had a rule that she could not have anything she had seen advertised on TV, because the price of an advertised product would be inflated to pay for the advertising that had made her want it in the first place. She could choose items similar to advertised items, as long as they were less expensive, but not the advertised items themselves. The lesson was one of both cost-consciousness and awareness of advertising manipulation. This rule caused many a teary eye - "Oh! I wish I hadn't seen it on TV!" - but, because it was explained honestly, it was understood and ultimately appreciated.
Never on a Sunday...
As a boy and young man, I remember going out late Saturday night to buy the Sunday paper and some food necessities so that no one had to work on the Sabbath (the Lords day made for us all to rest).
Hard Work and Good Choices...
Thankfully, my mother, a kind and decent refugee from Nazi Germany, knew enough to take us to the library and museums, all of which were free in the fifties in NY City. Although we did not own any books, and we lived in abject poverty on the Lower East Side of Manhattan (and later in the projects), I became an avid reader by age 4, and my teachers helped save me! Three of six children in my family, including me, managed to get a college education (free at CCNY, the Harvard of the poor), and I left home as soon as possible, at age 17 1/2, while a freshman there.
Hard work and good choices, and remembering my roots in the working class, led me to demonstrate on several fronts, and to continue that process all these years later. At 54, I have been a teacher since 1975, and I hope that I have taught many students the importance of staying informed (I teach journalism and English) and a love of the First Amendment.
I saw Ralph Nader, who inspired me in my youth, last night at RealArtWays in Hartford, and really appreciated the opportunity to hear him, even though the movie was sold out.....I spoke to Curry afterwards; I feel strongly about the healthcare issue and speak up about it whenever and wherever I can and will continue to do so. I have good insurance now as an adult, but I remember my childhood and I know what it's like to be deprived of basics.
Opening the Store...
From the time I was 10 or 11, and until I went away to college, I would get up early with my father on Sunday mornings to help him open the store (confectionary store in Northern New Jersey) and help him put the Sunday newspapers together for sale (in the days when there were many New York newspapers). The store was open every day from 6 am to 10 pm, except Sunday, when he closed at 1 pm. This experience taught me the value of hard work and has helped guide me in my work to achieve my goals.
Shucking the corn...
I grew up in a suburb of Dallas, Texas, during the 1970s and early 80s. My father had grown up in Dallas proper during the 1930s and 40s, and my mother in nearby Arlington of the same era, a time when these now vast, paved landscapes still contained cattle in fields, crawdaddies in creeks, and horny toads in gardens. Remembering this, my parents endeavored to implant in my siblings and me an appreciation for farmers' markets, which we frequented at least once a month so that my mother could buy the ingredients for her delicious Southern meals. The tradition that went along with this that involved us children was that we were required to help process the produce brought back from the market: shucking the corn, stringing the beans, snapping the peas, shelling the pecans, all of which took place on our modern, suburban back patio the same day the food arrived....
Unless one was invited elsewhere for dinner it was mandatory to be present for dinner. Dinner was at the table and no television, radio, or other distractions were allowed. This was a time for lively discussions. A response of "nothin" when asked "what you did today?" was not acceptable. Discussions were lively, as an example my older brother was the chair of the local Youth for Goldwater, and I was the treasure of the Teenage Democrats. Many world problems were solved at that dinner table. As an aside, my brother who worked for Goldwater eventually worked for the McGovern campaign.
Think & wait before you buy...
When I was young, we were required to list the toys we wanted to buy on an index card and leave it in the cabinet for a month. After the time had passed, if the item on the card was still something we were interested in buying, it would then be eligible for consideration. Although I no longer use a formal process for evaluating my luxury purchases, I've retained this sense of distance from the appeal of non-essential products, and find that I accumulate fewer of them than many people I know.
My father took me, my brother and my sister at age 5 to the public library to get our own library cards. Each Saturday we went to the library and stocked up with books for the coming week. At first we read for entertainment, but as we grew older we learned how to look up information. We learned the value of being informed and not sounding off without having facts behind our opinions.
My father didn't preach about citizenship, but he demonstrated the importance of speaking up on civic issues or the needs of people who were suffering under the pressures of the Big Depression....
Kissing away the anger...
Every Friday evening at sunset my maternal Grandmother, my father, my mother, my sister and I (and any out of town relative there at the time) would put on head scarves and yamulkas and light the Sabbath candles. My Grandmother would light the two candles, say a prayer over them and then everyone would go around and kiss each other. No matter if we were angry with each other, had a bad day or were generally grumpy, we always kissed everyone and said, "Good Shabbas" and thus were united as a family and in faith and were always changed by the Friday evening tradition.
Swimming on New Years day...
Every New Years day at noon we all go for a swim in our pond. Most of the fun time is removing all the ice so there is a place to jump in. This year it was warmer, so the pond was ice free and allowed us to swim it. Every year we get a couple more friends and family to show up.
The simple pleasures of a lake...
As a boy my family always went to 'the lake.' Every weekend, summers, and a few other times of year. At the lake we would be with family, eat traditional foods together, live with nature, watch sunsets, play games, explore the countryside, and talk into the wee hours of the night.
The meaning of life was shared at the lake; kinship, family values, living, social traditions, healthy routines, recreational pursuits, the fruit of what kept us all going.
Many of the old lake cabins are gone now...replaced with new homes which generally have tv, video games, an indoor, electrified lifestyle, which the older simpler ones could do very well without.
'The lake' was a way of life shared and still remembered by many, many fortunate people all across this grand country.
Enjoy but don't disappoint...
We are pleased to have four successful children. We raised them with few material things, but with a lot of love. It seem the only rule we ever laid down was when they asked us what we expected of them. Our reply was usually: "enjoy, but please just don't do anything that would disappoint us." They never have.
When I grew up in Western Mass. (Holyoke), my entire family was into scouting. My dad was a Pack Leader in the Cub Scouts, I, and my older brother were first in the Cub Scouts and then the Boy Scouts, my mom was a Girl Scout Leader and a Cub Scout Den Mother, and my sister was a Girl Scout. In this tradition, we were patriotic (we grew up during WWII), marching in all the parades; gathering scrap metal for the war effort, decorating the graves of vets on Memorial Day, and volunteering at the Red Cross and other organizations. We learned some basic survival skills during camp outings; we learned how to get along with others from varied backgrounds, and most of all, we got from scouting a sense of worth and belonging. Having been in scouting during my formative years, it has left me with many fond memories and a wish that all kids could belong to organizations such as this.
Planting, canning and chores...
One tradition was to plant seeds in February, till the soil in the spring, plant the garden in the summer.
Harvest beans, peas, tomatoes, onions, garlic, and eat good healthy food. In the fall was canning time, canned tomato sauce, canned jams and jellies, whole peaches, apples, and grape juice.
My father and mother were both brought up on farms and I grew up in a small city with factories all around.
My mother sewed and knitted and crocheted during summer and winter. We as children helped around the house doing our chores, sweeping stairs, helping my dad put up a fence, weeding the gardens. My mother planted flowers, Roses were her favorite, and many other perennials. One of my favorites was the trumpet vine with orange flowers that attracted humming birds.
In our little neighborhood everybody knew us and watched out for us. When we did wrong, which was not a very big thing like cutting through somebody's yard, our parents knew before we got home.
Life was simple growing up in the 50's. My mother worked at home and was always doing something to improve our lives.
We had 3 channels on T.V. and only watched it at night after dinner. My dad worked nights so he was always home in the morning for breakfast and lunch.
We walked to school and walked home for lunch and walked back for the second half of classes which ended at 3:30 in the afternoon. We rode our bikes all over the place and got lots of exercise and slept well. Eisenhower was the first president I knew of and Kennedy vs. Nixon was the first presidential race I noticed....
Today I have common sense and am independent and can do everything I put my mind to.
We visited my Grandmother every Sunday and drove on the highway to Manchester.
We were taught respect for old people and taught respect for our way of life....
Those sure were good times looking back at it today. Life seemed easy but I doubt that it was because...there were just as many problems then as there are now....
Preparing and sharing a meal...
This is about sharing food. For many generations, stemming from my mother's Germanic ancestry, we still prepare a recipe called Verenika. My Grandmom Strauss taught my mother, my mother taught me, I've taught my children. Now my children are teaching theirs. What is especially wonderful about this dough filled with cottage cheese and then smothered in a sour cream sauce recipe is not just the taste, but the way the recipe is written. I have Grandmom's original hand written recipe. The part about kneading the dough until it feels like a cow's udder has had all of us mystified, until we've been told to just use our own imaginations. We love Grandmom's analogy, which was very authentic to her. We, the family, who have lived in cities for years, think we must know what an udder feels like and smile fondly when we indulge in this time consuming and fabulous meal.
Thanksgiving with us and with them...
Here in Michigan we celebrate Thanksgiving with our three son's families and eight grandchildren. This we do on the Canadian Thanksgiving Day which is normally on the first Monday in October. This lets the families celebrate U.S. Thanksgiving with the son's in-laws. It has worked out fine for the past 20 years.
Lessons of a vacation...
Family vacations were also history lessons, because Dad always stopped at every historical marker in Washington, Idaho, Oregon and Montana. This was before interstates, so the markers were easy to see and park at. At the time, my brother and I weren't quite as interested, but read them all anyway. In my case, that had to have been the seed that established my interest in history.
Our family sets aside a special day every year where our children get to pick a special day of activities. As we are not big football fans, we have chosen to morph "Super Bowl Sunday" into "SuperKid Sunday". Invariably, the day involves going to Sunday services followed by a special museum, waterpark or other activity followed by a special meal at a restaurant of their choosing.
It's a great time and every year we enjoy recalling and discussing the previous years' activities as we plan for the upcoming SuperKid Sunday.
Playing cards and staying close...
My wife, and two children play cards, usually on weekends and on vacation. There is not a set time, and it is not always a regular event any more, but it is a way for us to continue to get time together to do nothing but have fun and interact. As the kids grow older (16 and 17), this is becoming more important to stay connected. We play a game called "Bustral" (a Middle Eastern game) played with a standard deck, or "500 Rummy". It is something my Lebanese grandparents taught my siblings and myself, and my father and his siblings used to play the very same games after church on Sunday afternoons.
My father, George Crompton III, went through WW2. When he came home from work, while mom was finishing up dinner, he would ask some questions:
What happened in the news?
What was your perception?
What was the perception of your friends?
Often he would end the discussion with.
Perceptions are often more important than reality. How has your perception of this event altered your reality? The reality of your friends? The reality of your nation?
Remembering and honoring mom...
We have a tradition in my family that we started after my mother died 10 years ago. I have a Mass said for mom and dad on the Sunday after Thanksgiving and then my sister Ann ... her daughters, my daughters and our granddaughters come to my house and we make Baklawa. All the kids come to Mass for my parents and afterwards I fix breakfast and them we start baking. I wear my mom's apron. She used to make the Baklawa by herself. It takes 8 of us working 4-5 hours to do what she did. It has become a special tradition for us to get together on Baklawa Sunday in honor of our mother.
It appears that your parents in association with their ancient & great civilization/traditions, including their personalization of those traditions, with their own wit & wisdom, taught you how to recognize the material world, the intellectual world, and the metaphysical world & the spirit in introducing you to these seventeen traditions & connecting to the modern & postmodern world. You & these traditions have much to teach not only to "youthful" America/American civilization, but other nations.
Other traditions, including Native American & African Diaspora & Irish Gaelic, etc. have a tradition of naming that connects children to an identity & role--whether it is a material, intellectual, metaphysical/spiritual. Introducing them to their material selves, intellectual selves, metaphysical/spiritual selves. Perhaps some shall offers notes on these traditions.
Mystics--or their equivalents--in many of these naming traditions would be allowed to name certain children along with various family naming traditions, "tribal" naming traditions and cultural/national naming traditions. Even in the Harry Potter books for children there is a "wizarding naming tradition."
Those interested in these various naming traditions, including Irish, Italian, Jewish, Native American, African can find them online by putting "naming traditions" in your search engines.
Union pay and respect for union members...
The tradition I offer is not mine, but my union's - UE, the United Electrical Workers Union. It was coined by our recently passed-away Secretary-Treasurer Boris "Red" Block, and probably falls into the trade union internal civics tradition category:
"I didn't join this union to get something out of the union. I joined this union to get something out of the boss." From the 1985 UE National Convention retirement speech of Red Block.
Our labor movement of today might benefit from this basic tradition that we practice in UE. UE Officer and staff salaries and benefits are Constitutionally restricted to being no greater than those of the UE members. This ensures that the UE leaders live and feel "like" the members, and do not merely feel "for" the members.