While driving down to visit our families in southern Maryland on Saturday, I sat silently, considering our holiday plans for this year. Finally I remarked to TC, “Hey, do you realize we don’t have any traditions left?”

“What do you mean?” he asked.

“I mean, absolutely everything has changed in the past two years. There’s nothing about the holidays that’s the same anymore.” The whole idea struck me as incredibly sad and I began to wonder what we have at this moment to pass on to Jack. For the first time in his life, Jack is fully aware of Christmas and his excitement about the holidays is adorable, truly joyous to witness. But what kinds of things will he tell his friends and teachers are the holiday legacies of his family?

I don’t drive to the “county” (our hometown) very often anymore. Mainly because our schedules over the past few months have been so insanely hectic, but also because my mom spends so much of her time up in the city visiting my dad. For the past 4.5 months, my dad has been a patient at Georgetown Hospital. What began as a bowel obstruction has developed into months and months of related ailments that have caused him to lose much of his physical and mental strength. My dad’s health has been problematic for years now, increasingly to the point where my mom decided to sell their house (the one my sister and I have called home for the past 13 years), and build a more manageable home a few miles away. With so many health issues and transitions to deal with, I’ve hardly had a moment to process the loss of this home – one of the few stabilizing elements of my adult life.

Moving was the best decision for my mom, and even though I feel twinges of sadness when I consider the memories we made in our old house, I’m proud of her for making a decision that has brought her ease in her day-to-day life, something TC and I are trying to achieve ourselves. 

Still, it’s hard to pretend this Christmas might resemble those in the past. In a new house, with my dad absent, and the emotional scars of TC’s injury still fresh, we’re still very much in a transition phase. At times, I feel an overwhelming desire to feel secure again, to lay down roots somewhere we can stay put, to get settled, and to infuse some fun in all of our lives, but especially Jack’s. The problem is, I’m not quite sure how to do this or whether the timing is right. I find myself fantasizing about the ten years I spent growing up in Arizona, a time in my life when things truly were easy, and I ask myself whether it’s possible to replicate this. But the voice in my head, the one that always tries to override my impatience, tells me to wait. It promises that things ahead will get better and more stable if I can just wait it out. It promises that the answers to life’s next big changes will reveal themselves if I can just stay true to the course. However, it also reminds me to be bold and risk-taking, to seize opportunities as they come, and to create magic in the life we are living at this moment.

After considering my comment about our traditionless life, TC answered thoughtfully, “Well, it’s an opportunity to make new traditions.” I know he’s right, and more than that, I know we must. We cannot wait for our easier lives to begin before giving Jack the memories we hope he’ll carry into adulthood. The task of creating new traditions starts today, in whatever house we find ourselves, with whoever is present. Living in transition does not necessitate living without tradition. As our lives inevitably change, we must search for the things we can carry forward with us, and when those things come to an end, we must carry forward our ability to create something new. 

4 thoughts on “Traditions

  1. Abby….it’s funny I read this right after I read the chapter in my book “happier at home”, Gretchen Rubin suggests the idea of holiday breakfasts. For minor holidays (Valentines Day, St Patrick’s, etc) she decorates the table the night before with fun decorations and does a special holiday breakfast for her family. Not sure if that’s a tradition you want to think about, but I’m thinking of adapting it for me and Emily


  2. Traditions don’t have to be elaborate. As for Christmas traditions there are many that are easy yet memorable ones the create. A few that we’ve been able to uphold: buying a small tree, the little guys that most people reject. We started a new one: buying a tree that is the same height as our child (it grows with the kiddo). If you have a fake tree no problem, after stringing the lights let the kiddo put up the first ornament. In our house, we have one ornament that I bought for our daughter, every year she gets to put that up as the first ornament on the tree. Other traditions could revolve around opening presents: open one on Christmas Eve or something.
    But many traditions will also happen naturally as your family matures. That’s the beauty of family traditions, some will happen immediately and others happen more organically over time.


  3. Abby, thanks so much for the lovely Christmas card. I am inspired everyday by you and your dear family. Enjoy your time off and your family time.


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