Old Diary

Tradition in the Family

Peggy, my wife, says that our daughter Kathryn is one of those people who’s special place on earth is to be a keeper of family memories.  I think that’s a pretty good assessment.  And it’s good that every family have one, I think.

I say “I think” because I’m no one to be making rules for other people to live by and I, personally, am not a great keeper of memories. It’s not that memories don’t have value to me, it’s more about how my mind handles tradition.

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I’m not on very friendly terms with tradition.  This has come to the fore because of our grand-daughter who has married into a very large family that is very strong on tradition.

I have nothing against tradition, and I am very happy for our grand daughter and her hubby and their child and I’m glad that she enjoys the kind of life that tradition brings.  It’s not my place to decide what makes someone else happy.

I am equally happy that we Peg & I have lived our life that both of us have had a slightly looser handle on the place tradition plays in our life.

I  got to thinking about the role of tradition when we were all sitting around in the sunroom this past summer at our new summer getaway.  I was being regaled with the plans our younger ones had for their coming vacation and at the same time I was smiling about their eagerness and enthusiasm I could not escape the contrast between our lives half a century apart.

There is NO right way to family.  A family is what it is.  Different personalities result in different group dynamics and that is the way life works.  Peg and I happen to come from a religious tradition that emphasizes the baptism of consenting adults. Our Grand One has married into a tradition of infant baptism.  All well and good.  Their family being large, infant baptism has become a real “thing” and it seems that the outfit worn for baptisms has come to be a family tradition. In fact, more than 50 children have all been baptized wearing the same physical outfit.   One family member seems to be the keeper of the costume and everyone knows it.  It’s assumed that a new baby is going to wear the outfit.  Full Stop. There were even stories about how our new grand-son-in-law used to ask about the “day he wore a dress.”  It was cute and clearly a funny but touching memory for all involved. It’s only one example, but I think it’s an appropriate one.

The baptism took place a few months ago and we attended and a wonderful time was had by all, but I can’t say that the idea of passing on a baby outfit did not make an impression on me.  And it had me thinking of all the ways in which I, and subsequently Peggy and I after we married, rubbed traditional people the wrong way. In the months before our wedding we seemed to constantly be telling people “no,” when they approached us with their plans for our wedding.  After we married the ways we arranged our life bumped up against family and friendly expectations.  Pretty much to this day we have not done the things people expected of us, but we have talked over things and made our own mutual choices.

Being such an independent cuss, I can’t help but ponder what it will be like for our great grandchild.  At age 4 months it isn’t apparent yet what kind of person she will be.  Will she be docile?  Will she be bullheaded?  Will gender become an issue for her; will she be comfortable in her own skin; will she have issues, or will she be easy going?  And how will mom and dad deal with her emerging personality? Or how will her grandparents deal with her personality — one set of which live within a few short miles, the other set of which live a couple hundred miles away and simply by that fact will have a lesser involvement in the child’s life.

Growing up in a family with a huge investment in tradition may be a wonderful boon, or for the wrong personality it could be hell on earth.  All of which will manifest itself over time.  And I have great confidence that our granddaughter and her hubby will do right by her little one.  But it may not always be easy.

As our Grand One approached marriage, and then motherhood, we have been tickled pink at her maturity and poise.  But we have also been surprised to find emerging characteristics that were invisible earlier in life.  So, too, our daughter.  When faced with becoming a grandparent she too has grown in interesting ways. We can’t anticipate the changes life will throw at us and whether or not we are “ready” for them, there they are!

I remember when Peg and I announced that we were expecting our child, my mother in particular sort of went off the deep end.  She wasn’t ready to become a grandmother.  She thought herself too young to be a GRAND mother.

That didn’t matter, because she became a grandmother whether she wanted to or not, and in very short order she was just fine with her new role. But our announcement 3 years after we married, just when she thought she knew what our life-plan was going to be, threw her for a loop.  My point being that events in other people lives — even our own children’s lives can cause us to see ourselves in a new light, and we aren’t always prepared for that sight.

I hope that little Sophia, our Great Grandchild, is a strong minded woman.  I would love to see her do wonderful things in life.  But most of all I want her to be free to be whomever she wants to be — that is never easy.  Supportive family is wonderful, but supportive family can also be stifling.  Finding the right balance between direction and enforcement is tough.  It’s made harder by the pressure exerted on us by dead people — the ones who went before, who are no longer present to explain how, or why, or when, or where, but who seem to follow us wherever we go and who have plans for our life we aren’t even allowed to discuss.

It’s going to be interesting to watch.

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