I grew up in a home nearly void of traditions. There were a few, which I clung to passionately. When I grew up and struck out on my own I soon realized that I was the pilot of my children’s lives and traditions increasingly became of high import.
I wanted holidays to be fun whether we decorate just a little or do it up in style. Some I started – based on what I felt I was lacking from my childhood – some happened of their own accord and others were passed down from extended and new family members.
Valentines Day we decorate a little but most importantly my kids have heart shaped baskets they put at their seats at our table. Upon waking up they have a basket filled with little surprises. Easter – replace the basket with square shapes and cloth bunny inserts – is much the same. Left out the night before, the kids awaken to filled baskets. I don’t do a lot of candy – but art supplies, a barbie, key chains, etc… fill them. Much akin to a stocking (which, yes, is my favorite part of Christmas). 4th of July is always spent at their dads family’s homes13 hours of driving away, in what’s become a huge family reunion. Thanksgiving is sometimes a travel holiday, but if spent at home (like this year will be), it becomes a gathering place for everyone who doesn’t have family close by. A hodgepodge of accumulated friends desiring good food and people who are glad to have them over.
Christmas probably has the most tradition. Christmas Eve we have a big pot roast dinner followed by the kids opening two items. One is a pair of pajamas handmade by me that they immediately put on to wear that night. This tradition started innocently one year with young children for a picture and fast became one of the things the kids (some now adults) look forward to the most. Then I read a story called “The Christmas Orange” about a little girl in an orphanage – fitting with all the foster care and adoptions I’ve done. Mostly, though, it reminds us of how truly blessed we are. Then we break open a chocolate orange one of the kids has hidden in the tree and the rest of us has to find and pass it around. The final gift is an ornament. Each child has a Rubbermaid container that houses an ornament from each year they’re born plus anything they’ve made or gotten from someone else. When we decorate the tree, each child takes out their ornaments, we remember where they came from and they choose 4 to hang, wrapping the remaining back up. On Christmas Eve they get their new one and hang it on the tree. When my children strike out on their own, they’ll have this box of memories to start a tree of their own, hopefully maintaining some of my traditions and making some new ones.
Autumn is always a family race. It started as the Run For Education where the kids raced and I watched and waited for them. The kids raised money for their schools PE department and playground equipment so they saw the fruits of their labor. That race ended, so we replaced it with the Reno 5000 Halloween race with the best race director ever (who is now my coach). Now the kids are older and we all do the race – each running at our own pace and supporting each other. Now this isn’t their only race – this year it’s the 3rd the kids have run and they volunteered at one. A tradition that morphed from my love of running and passed down.
Another favorite tradition that happened yesterday is Frosty’s. My mother in law, Donna is one of the best people I know. She became Grammy to my kids 7 years ago when Chris and I started dating. We adopted her and she adopted all of us right back. She lives in California – a 6 hour drive away – but about every 6 weeks she comes to Reno to visit her 3 sons and all the grandkids. Every single time, she brings the kids to Wendy’s for a Frosty. This is a tradition gifted to us by an extended member of the family that means so much. Yesterday was Frosty day with 8 of the kids (Bri was in class at college and unfortunately missed out, but she got taken to lunch so I think it was a wash). As my kids grow up I want them to know that these traditions are reminders of how important they are, how much they are loved and how proud I am to be their Mommy.