Wide Awake: Traditions
Holding on when so much has changed

When my 3 daughters were little, we would bundle them up in pretty coats and take a day trip to NYC about a week before Christmas. My parents came along, and we saw everything you should see at this special time in, what we think, is a special city. One year, we even saw the ball drop during a practice run.

The city was so crowded we often had to walk in the street because we actually couldn’t fit on the sidewalk. That was sometimes a little scary with 3 little ones, but we had at least one adult to hold each child’s hand. Despite the crowds, it was kind of a magical day. There was this holiday excitement in the air. The places we went were beautiful. And best of all, we were together.

It is a tradition that has continued. Some things have changed: We now spend a weekend there. The girls don’t wear matching dresses. And suddenly, everyone is ordering wine at dinner. Also, my dad is no longer with us to share the day. So now there’s one less hand to hold.

But of course, what is still best of all is this tradition brings us together.

I’m not sure if it’s because of the pandemic or because the girls are on their own now (or both), but I’ve realized how essential it is to continue traditions. I don’t think I was aware of that before. I organized what we did year after year because it was fun. We got Kohr Bros. on the Boardwalk because it’s the only time we could have orange sherbet and vanilla ice cream on a cone. We went pumpkin picking at the same farm because it’s how we decorated for Halloween. We had a treasure hunt on Valentine’s Day because I knew little girls would like hunting for small presents (and then discovered older girls like that too). I didn’t set out to create traditions, but suddenly they were there.

Now we have lots of photos of us in the same places, just at various ages. We share stories of things that happened along the way in those same places. When the history of your family’s life has consistent threads, you can’t help but feel a strong bond.

Last year, though, traditions were put on hold. And now the question is which traditions do we bring back, and which are gone for good. Pre-pandemic, you didn’t have to think about annual events – who you would see, where you would go, what you would do or what you would eat. Everyone just knew, because it was always the same.

But then the whole world changed. And we got really comfortable doing very little.

Slowly though we’re getting back to what we used to do. And sometimes someone even says, “but it’s tradition” when we’re making plans. That phrase – “but it’s tradition” – seems to jolt us into remembering to hold on to the special moments we had before the pandemic.

When I was a kid, my mom baked us a Duncan Hines vanilla cake with Duncan Hines chocolate icing for our birthday. I happen to think this is the most delicious birthday cake you can have, and I probably think that because of the feeling I had each birthday when I saw her carry the cake into the dining room. It was awesome, so I continued to do that for the girls’ birthdays until they were older and made requests for an ice cream cake or a giant chocolate chip cookie cake.

But several years ago, my mom started baking that cake again and dropping it off on our birthdays. If we weren’t home, we’d find it on the kitchen counter. If she knew we were cutting back on sugar, she’d drop it off and say to share it with someone else. If we were going to a restaurant with plans to have dessert there, she’d get in the car with the cake on her lap, saying we could have it tomorrow. She brought back a well-loved tradition, and a pandemic didn’t stop her.

We didn’t stop her either. Because that cake – and all traditions – represent so much more than what it seems. Special moments that you experience year after year are just quick reminders that life can be good, and sometimes, like during a pandemic, you really need to know that. So you hold on. You go to NYC. You eat the cake. And you remember how lucky you are.

Read more Wide Awake here.

December 2021
Related Articles

Comments are closed.


Get SJ Mag in Your Inbox

Subscribe for the latest on South Jersey dining, weekend entertainment, the Shore and much more - sent directly to your inbox.

* indicates required
Email Format
WATCH NOW: Millennials looking for Mentors