Anyone who knows me knows that this is my favorite time of the year. I love the coolness that descends upon Southern California that tugs at my memories of fall in the Midwest. I love decorating my house for the holidays. I love the smells of holiday meals emanating from my kitchen. I love Christmas music and I love gift giving. Each one of these “loves” has a foundation in a tradition from my childhood.
When the crisp air of fall arrived, that meant it was time for harvest, for football games, for raking leaves only to leap into the pile. My mother would bake pies, make noodles, and roll out sugar cookies to cut. My grandmother would stir up a batch of peanut brittle (without peanuts for me). My other grandmother would create a hearty Sunday dinner of roast beef, mashed potatoes, gravy and rolls. The smells welcomed us as we entered her house.
Christmas music would play non-stop on the turntable of my home. We would listen to Andy Williams, Perry Como, Johnny Mathis, Bing Crosby and all of the classics. We decorated the house, carefully removing each piece from the storage crate, recalling the memories attached to it and placing it in its special location year after year. Each year, my parents took us to the mall to buy gifts for each other. They would give us money and send us out to find the perfect gift for each sibling and parent. I would agonize over each purchase, hoping I had found the favorite present for each person on my list. On Christmas morning, the gift exchange ran like a well-rehearsed play lasting for hours while we noshed on cinnamon rolls. These are precious, precious memories that I will cherish forever. They inspire me to create similar memories for my children, which, if you ask them, I seemingly did.
Traditions create a sense of continuity and hope. As I reflect on my youth and how the traditions of my family shaped not only me, but also my children, I realize that legacies are built on these. My mother will forever be known as the woman who loved Christmas. My children know me as a woman who pursues the Christmas spirit relentlessly. My children are already displaying the same tendencies as they move into adulthood. The important thing to remember, however, is that while my childhood sounds idyllic, it was fraught with challenges and struggles. Farming is a tricky business, filled with times of plenty and times of want. The traditions we set as a family helped us move through each challenge and gave us something to look forward to. So many of our traditions cost little to nothing, so each year, whether it was a good harvest or bad, we were able to gather, eat, listen, experience and give.
I encourage you to continue or create traditions with your children. While doing so, remember that it isn’t about perfection, it is about the process. I do not remember the burnt cookies, fights in the car, cranky attitudes or lack of money. I remember the joy and laughter along the way. As families with young children, you have the chance to start a legacy that will continue long after you are gone. As you experience this holiday season, may you find much joy and laughter with your families. Merry Christmas from all of us at Child’s World Preschool.