No Fiddler on My Roof

Whether I like it or not, the holiday season will be upon us in no time.  I have gone into the local Wal Mart (ewwwww) and seen the Christmas decorations up already.  I visited a local plant nursery and part of their morning task was to create some holiday ornaments.  The cashiers and I talked about how in retail after Labor Day they have to run full speed into Halloween then to Christmas.  Talk about a whirlwind of a time crunch.

Watching and listening has me thinking lately.  I decided today that I would visit one of the few traditions I carried from my childhood.  My mother would wake on Sunday morning and put in the fixins for a beef roast meal.  This was our Sunday noon meal and I must say, all of us loved it.  Usually mom would take the potatoes from the pan with the roast and mash them!!!!! I watched as my brothers would mix corn in the mashed potatoes and inwardly cringe as I recoil in shock that someone would dare to MIX their food.    I have a strong aversion to mixing food, or to even have food touching one another on a plate.  Can’t do it.  I have good friends who have watched me take fruit off my plate, separate it, then eat it alphabetically.  OK, maybe a bit OCD.

This meal was a moment where everyone gathered–one of the few.  Whether there was much talking was of little interest.  It was usually my older brother talking to my father or my brothers and I egging each on to misbehave.  The food, the smell, the warmth, the promise of leftovers  always brought a smile to my face.  AAAAAhhhh, leftovers.  Let it be said now that there are certain foods which are better the 2nd or 3rd day. Lasagna, scalloped potatoes, goulash, roast beef,–I could go on, but I think you have the idea.  I knew that meant at least a meal or two would be a break from my usual fare of peanut butter sandwiches.  You have no idea.

I was working on such meal today, reliving how it must have been to put it together.  I added a few more touches:  squash, crescent rolls, and choc cookies–anything to bribe the boys.  I was thinking about the details in such a meal, then remembered that I was never shown that.  I observed and am thankful that I have a good memory for such.  I found my youngest standing next to me, clad in only a fuzzy blanket as he had just taken a mid-morning bath. (I don’t know why)  I was peeling and cutting potatoes and he requested to help me.  I instantly tensed as I tried to remember ever doing that when I was young.  I searched my database and could not recall.  I told him he could help me, but he had to get dressed.  No nekid boys in my kitchen, no matter how cute they are.

He came skipping back and I thought this odd.  All I am doing is peeling potatoes and making them ready to roast.  He wanted to peel, uh not so much.  I struck a deal and let him cut them in half under my supervision.  He jabbered the whole time.  I was confounded.  A meaningless task, and he approached it with such good humor.  I shared with him about how his grandpa would have to peel potatoes in the army and that was probably why he might not like real mashed ones.  (again, I dunno)  Hmmm, sharing history.

That may seem so common for many.  It is uncommon for me.  I will soon hear of great traditions, baking, baking,, and more baking.  Making large meals as a unit, games played, memories shared.  i understand some of that from watching my husband’s family.  They talk of vacations, decades of holiday traditions, memories etched in photos.  Hm. That is all well and good for many many many families.  For mine, there was a different level of focus.

To say that the difference in focus is better or worse is not for me to say.  I cannot recall any specific memories except a pinochle game or 2, and times when we would congregate at a certain aunt’s house for a holiday.  Before long, most of those times had faded and no new traditions were born.  I thought nothing of a need to want this.  I did not know to want it.  Now, I struggle with the fact that I just might want something like that.

My family and I have long ceased any get togethers.  We all have our own families, and most often in-laws receive our attention.  I think of Christmas, and I can tell you day for hour what will happen.  Eve will be at one in-law, morning is family time, my family may stop by if the weather is good and they are able.  It will just be my parents and the kids will be overjoyed to see them.  After an hour or so, weather permitting, they will take their leave and the afternoon will be spent at the other grandma’s house.  There all my husband’s sisters and their children will be present.  I have been around 14 years and it is still foreign to me.  I know the drill, the expectations, still it feels like I am under water, treading, trying to navigate the bottom with a slight view of murky water.

I see the goodies my in-law’s families have made, the handmade and cute little ornaments and decorations.  I have none of that to bring.  I don’t know how.  People speak of trips taken and making special efforts to keep certain traditions alive, I have no reference for that.  I think I want to establish, but I am not sure how to do so.   I am not a crafty girl….in the least.  I have boys, not so keen on cooking and baking and artsy creative stuff.  If they do want to help, what does that look like?  How do you let them help and not make a mess or how do they not drive you nuts in the process with wanting to take over and “help”?  We know they are really not helping, right?

Many will wonder, huh?  No baking, making things together, no special traditions that HAD to be kept, a favorite place that was the ONE place that brought everyone back together?  You HAVE to be joking.

I am not.  There was occassional games, but don’t ask me to play Pictionary.  There were times at the lake where we played all the time, but nothing that had to be followed.  I have memories of a moment or 2, nothing more.  I look at pictures of my husband’s family and the scads that I take of my children as they grow.  One of my children asked me where pictures of me would be.  I told them honestly that was not a priority in my family.  Hard work and doing work well and doing the best you could was valued, which is not all bad.  However, there are no pictures, no record of what we did or how we did it.  I asked my mother the other day what my song was that she used to get me to go to sleep….there was none.  I never thought that would bother me.  It does now, weird, at 39 that bothers me BIG TIME.  What book was read at night?  None.  What favorite stuffed animal or dress or what have you, that I HAD to have?  Dont’ know.  What made me laugh, giggle?  Who knows.

That may not seem like much to wonder about at my age, but as I watched my son today wanting to help cut potatoes, I was aghast at what and how to pass traditions on to them.  How do I pass on recipes, lefse cooking, krumkake, games, stories, AAAAHHHHH?  I know that legacy lies in the stories and traditions we leave behind.  Makes me wonder, if there is little of that in the family I grew up in, what does that say about our legacy?  hm.  Interesting thought.    I just stumbled on that.  Legacy and tradition, it seems that’s where its at…..

What legacy of tradition to leave?

shalom

cahl

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That is PATHETIC~

It stands on my computer desk, with one red ball and a swatch of blue felt at its base. 7 paltry twigs adorn its trunk, with barely a sprig of green.  It is hardly a wonder of creation.  It is one of the most beautiful examples of care and Christmas compassion I can think of.

Charlie Brown felt the same way when he stumbled upon this tree in the story, “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”  Everyone expected him to return with a stalwart and stately tree that spoke of strength and vigor, he returned with this pathetic representation of a tree.  “You’re pathetic Charlie Brown, you couldn’t even pick out a decent tree.  We can’t trust you to do anything right.”  Wow.  Anyone else feel gutted at that statement…THANK YOU LUCY!

We all have a Lucy, more often than not, its our own heads.  I have no clue how it gets there, sometimes its inborn.  I am not sure why anymore than I know why my boys turn everything they touch into weapons when they have not been taught to do so. I listen to my oldest talk about himself.  He does the same talk.  I don’t know why.  He has not been told he is pathetic, worthless, or stupid.  Yet, there it is.  As a parent, it kills me to hear him talk like that.  As a teacher, I heard my students voice the same sentiments….it ripped me raw.  What they saw as the pathetic tree branch, I saw growth and chance.    Alone in that snow bank stood that tiny tree and Charlie Brown saw something unique and special about it.  How cool is that?

2 things jump out at me.  Ok 3.  1 is that I stooped to the level of using the word “things”–shudder!  2 I want to be a Charlie Brown that sees something special and uncommon.  I don’t want to rescue something or someone, but to cultivate an attitude of vulnerability that helps others realize their own potential.  3 I yearn to know that others are Charlie Browns for me.  I listened far too long to my own Lucy voice, and still do.  As I seek to be encouraging for others, I know that there are too many times that I find myself feeling like the tree–alone, undesired, plain, overlooked.  The shining ornament lovingly placed on the tree lends a certain ownership to it and the Linus Blanket at the trunk gives me hope.  I will talk another time about my own Linus moments, but for today it makes me smile.

I received a rendition of the Christmas tree from that story today and it speaks something to my soul tonight.  What story grips you in this moment?  Why?  How can we apply it to the everyday chances we encounter?  That is my challenge…how do I lean into what it means and use it to be an asset?  Join me?

Shalom and Christmas tidings.

~cahl~

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