The Tussle over Tradition


It’s interesting that as I started thinking about this post I noticed New Year posts detailing the changes Millennials are bringing about in the workplace.  I’m not the only one thinking about the tussle over traditionalism.

How can it be that in a society of nearly-constant-change, that tradition is such a prevalent theme.  From supporting your college teams, to re-enacting Christmas details down to the tiniest detail there is something innately human about wanting consistency in one’s life.

That’s the way we’ve always done it.  That’s the way momma did it, and it’s good enough for me.  Why change, it’s worked this way as long as I’ve been alive?

“To many people holidays
are not voyages of discovery,
but a ritual of reassurance.”
– Philip Andrew Adams

There is something pathological about change.  I remember reading some time ago that you can trace the symptoms that accompany broken expectations.  In the extreme, when too many of our expectations fail the results can go far beyond depression, even ending in death — so there’s something life-and-death about how we handle the changes in the world around us.  Change will happen; how we deal with it is everything.

That quote from Philip Adams really struck home with me a while few years ago. Each season as we build up to one holiday or another as I watch friends and relatives dealing with holiday expectations I’m as much aware of what their traditions say about themselves as about the holiday.  An awful lot of the time our traditions are more about family, feeling needed, feeling attached than they are about the event-of-choice.  What traditions really do is keep us connected with others in our life and with our own history — because our traditions are rarely universal — they are much more common about memories of our own past. tradition

This might be the big danger we face nationally as we produce generation after generation of youth whose contact with their own parents has been minimized by work schedules, fragmented by myriad activities, and isolated by electronic games.  If the world is having to adjust to the lifestyles of Millennials it’s because parents never placed much emphasis on the values they themselves once had.  You can only learn what you are exposed to and if youth aren’t exposed to traditions or expectations long enough to adopt them they can’t be blamed if — for example — showing up on time for a 40 hour work week seems ridiculous.  In my lifetime we went from paper letters and communications to email.  I see there are companies who are now outlawing email and expect their personnel to communicate in text to simplify the document trail.

My dear wife loves Christmas.  But I’ve never been sure whether it’s “Christmas” that she loves or simply that it’s the biggest season of the year when she can decorate the house with little temporary gee-gaws. You see, when she was still working she would decorate the top of her filing cabinet with silly and inspirational dioramas.  This was something that happened throughout the year.  Everyone loved them.  They even tried to continue doing so after she left but something like that takes a personal passion and unless you have it expect the idea to fail in time. There were holiday decorations and non-holiday decorations.  Sometimes there were stuffed animals involved (little ones) other times the message was all about words.  But what they did was build teamwork and make people laugh — together — at the same things.  A good idea, that.  I think.

I’m not sure what our absence from Milwaukee is doing, or will do to our family traditions.  I’ve never been a big traditionalist — remember, I’m the guy who painted the ceiling on Christmas eve because of something happening a few days later that I thought was more important.  And yes — even though it was 48 years ago I heard about it this year (in a nice way).

I remember talking with my parents as one by one their parents passed from the scene about things we do out of tradition.  At one time mom’s three sisters and all the family members got together about 6 or 7 times a year and shared a day — I can’t say it was a meal because it started way earlier and lasted way later.  Then came the time when all of our (Peggy & My) parents passed from the scene and we sort of had similar discussions with Kathryn. Carrying things forward is good, and it’s more or less important depending on the people.

Modern work rules seem to mitigate against families staying in close proximity to one another.  Bosses think nothing of expecting employees to move locations.  The growth of company size, and the tendency of large companies to gobble up small ones has made the need to relocate ever more powerful.  Jobs are hard to come by, especially ones that pay well, and it’s easy to see relocating for your job as essential.  But… “essential” is a personal and subjective decision.  I know plenty of retirees who have left the Upper Midwest for Arizona and California for health reasons related to breathing.  Breathing is good — we should do it a few times a day. 🙂  In our case we went RV’ing in pursuit of warmth, not so much lower humidity and we seem to have ended up here — at least for now.  Relocations have played havoc on many of our traditions.

But in our case our relationships weren’t based on the events, they were based on the people.  Last summer we put ourselves in a place where we could see our Granddaughter easily in this year before her marriage.  We know that once she’s married her life will change even more, but it will also change more rapidly and we wanted to insure we had as much time with her as we could.  Our daughter has always been close and we manage to get to Milwaukee at least a couple times a year, and she manages to get out to see us wherever we are because family is important to us.  Whether or not it happens on a holiday, or in connection with a “tradition” of some sort isn’t what matters to us.  It may matter to someone else. We choose to put the emphasis in other places.

In coming years there will be a huge change in what people consider tradition.  It’s coming already.  The other day we were in Brownsville driving past the local Ford dealer and I saw two “new” (to me) truck models.  Ford Tonka trucks.ford-f150-tonka-edition  I wanted to laugh, but I found myself thinking serious thoughts because I was not the generation that grew up with Tonka truck toys and it’s clear that designers are targeting different markets than in the past.  There’s a huge market for men who grew up with Tonka trucks for whom there is something soothing and comforting about the name, the ‘idea’ of Tonka tough.  It’s a silly little thing — how marketing people try to find niches for their products. Sure.  But it also speaks to the changes in society and the ways in which tradition for me may be radically different than tradition for you. There’s currently an entire generation of parents who spent happy times with parents and siblings at Disney attractions who now take their children to the same places in order to recapture those feelings of family, and warmth that they experienced there when they were young.

My memories of family have nothing to do with amusement parks, nor fictional characters.  I remember a decent size family crammed into small home/apartment eating food cooked by people who loved them.  We played games together.  We sang songs together.  We told jokes — good ones, bad ones, a few off color ones too.  But tradition for us was about family.  About the kernel of our lives — what was most important.

I’m not sure what tradition means to people today.  It’s clear that it remains important.  But even as a non-family member I see and hear enough other families around me (not here at the park) where tradition is a grating topic.  The younger disrespect the traditions of the older;  the older fight to get their way.  In the end — as I’m a casual observer — I don’t always now the resolution (if there is one).  But it bothers me that the events in our lives that ought to solidify the relationships between us can also be used to divide us.  Hmmmm…. sounds like politics, doesn’t it?  Sounds like the current state of U.S. affairs, doesn’t it.

None of these things happen in isolation.  They are all interrelated.  How we deal with change, with tradition, with an ever transforming world is up to us.  It’s a tussle for tradition.  Let’s all play fair, eh?

Thanks for stopping,  I’ll be here again tomorrow. Why not stop and say Hi.

 

 

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6 Comments

  1. I spent my holidays as a child playing with cousins on one side or the other at most holidays. So did Dave. Our daughter was already 8 years old when he first cousin was born so she always felt like the babysitter at family gatherings. I really missed those play days for her.

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    1. Interesting…. On one side of the family I had 5 cousins within 5 years of age. — on the other side only one cousin — 17 years older. I have a split personality attitude about cousins. 🙂

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  2. I think you nailed it with your comment about ones ability to embrace change. For most of my life I was certain that I was great with change…until I got older. It was more the comfort and familiarity of how it was for me. It’s only recently, past couple of years, that I can say that I’m getting pretty good with change and it’s okay for the younger generation to do things differently. Years down the road, they will be faced with a similar feeling as their grandchildren grow up. I find There are a few traditions I have…the ones that brought pleasure to me in the most part. I do recall one I had to stop because the world had changed and had become more health conscientious…baking Christmas cookies and sending them to family. Hated that one!

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    1. I think I share some of that ‘thought I was great with change’ history. I know I wasn’t always. And there have been times in my life when I was pretty ANTI-change in certain areas of my life. Frankly, it’s been a much better life since I learned to change!

      I have no problem admitting that I don’t always like the changes I see around me. Accepting change is / needn’t be the same thing as endorsing it. I may someday see 50% of drivers driving on the shoulder but that doesn’t mean I’ll ever be doing that myself — or thinking it’s the right thing to do — but I have already learned that you jolly well better be aware of what’s coming up behind you on the shoulder or you might be in for a surprise!

      We humans may have reason and intelligence that “animals” don’t but we do seem to lack any sense of historical context until we get older. There are such things as herd intelligence. Animals “learn” critical factors about human encroachment on their habitat and not every one of them must perish before the group learns not to do certain things. We humans are so power-hungry and arrogant as a species that we may well destroy our own habitat. I hope and pray we don’t, but it’s in our power with Fision and Fusion and selective extinction. So, whether or not I favor change I find it in my best interest to sort of live-within it. if you know what I mean by that expression.

      But each generation has to learn that lesson independently. Each individual has to learn that themselves.

      In our family, Peg is more the tradition preserver than I. Part of the nature of being an INTP personality is a kind of aloofness that I’ve never been able to overcome. I can seem so disconnected from other things/people/events. Internally I don’t feel so much that way — but I’m told I am (fortunately not by Peg). Internally I’m working out ideas and making plans and doing things — and taking time out to rehearse something that has happened over and over again just seems a waste of time — until the family are all there and I’m enjoying being with them.

      With a small family — making Christmas cookies together and keeping them because we ARE a small family was always one of them. Maybe next year we might be able to repeat that again — we have missed for a few years but Katy tries to keep it up on her own. > >

      Liked by 1 person

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