As another Passover approaches, I can't help but think back wistfully to my childhood with my Eastern European grandparents and all that it held for me -- the incessant Yiddish conversations, the Yiddish radio broadcasts; a home that smelled from a mixture of fish, moth balls and sometimes sweat. The odors that emanated from the kitchen during Chanukah, Rosh Hashanah and Passover, all of which have stayed with me to this day. The ever-present small Russian shot glasses rimmed with "gold" are missing, except for the imprint they've left in my mind. Most of all, I remember the laughter and large tables filled with food, surrounded by extended family.
Today, nearly none of the family members speak with each other, the product of long-standing animosities and rifts. Certainly, that entire way of Lower East Side life is nearly extinct, with all the by-products very hard to now find.
As with all-things mothering, you remember the rituals, traditions and routines of your childhood only when you become a mother yourself: the first "Twinkle, Twinkle" song or the melodies you realize you'd long-forgotten (and must remember by going to the Internet!); the games you have a faint memory of; and, as your children age, you remember what you were doing at that same stage/age. Playing ball, riding bikes, going to birthday parties, watching your favorite "must-watch" on TV... the list goes on. With all this comes a second awareness that really, much of this does not stay the same: not the rituals, not the technology, and not the importance of certain styles/shows/philosophies/cultural mores/families, etc. Most of all, not much of the traditions.
When my youngest children became toddlers, I remember searching frantically for replacement grandparents. I wanted to infuse the same sights, smells, taste and experience that I'd had and offer it to my own children. Those memories were only a mindset away. With my grandparents long-gone and nearly the entire remaining older members of the family dead, I could only turn to my parents to fill in the gaps. But the fit wouldn't be there either: my parents are white-collar and organic farmers who live simply, without ritual, off the land.
Which brings me back to the present. Last week, we began cleaning our basement out, determined to truly get rid of all that no longer serves us. We wanted to do this thankless task before we die and examined each item/book/magazine with that very thought in mind. With two generations of children, we kept our eye on the oldest two, knowing that what we were giving was our legacy and their life-blood. We remain in the present with our youngest children, continuing to make (and find) memories, continuing to capture their every move in video and photograph, all saved for a later date.
All of this has just catapulted me into the future -- into the sobering reality that nothing really stays the same and that in the end, we die. As midlife parents and as individuals in midlife, the reality does hit home, hard. So, is it about the rituals and tradition, or is it just the impact we make in the here-and-now? I'd love to hear from you. What are the traditions that you've preserved for your children? How have you formulated these thoughts for your own future?
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