Christmas is the mainstay of my year because tradition is the mainstay of my life. It keeps me whole. It is the centrifugal force that stops the pieces from shooting wildly into the void. The only way I can bear the changes that grind on inexorably around me is to pepper the year with those things that never change. Bath and books for the boys before bedtime. Homemade cakes on their birthdays. The beach in August.
– Anna Quindlen, Christmas
You know sometimes you read something and you find yourself startled with the simple truth of something that you’ve known along, but you never knew you knew? Something so obvious you cannot believe you never saw it before? Yeah, that. I read Anna Quindlen’s words in one of her Living Out Loud columns and smacked my forehead with my hand.
Duh. Yes. I’m as keenly aware as anyone I know of the whirlwind of this life, of the shocking, devastating speed with which it all rushes by, of how easily I’m knocked off my feet by the swirling rapids of time. I’m also fiercely – you might say irrationally – loyal to a set of traditions, some big and some tiny, and Anna Quindlen finally helps me see why. These known things are sturdy handholds in the river of life, helping orient me and reassuring me that all does not pass away.
What are some of these traditions? A Sunday afternoon family tree trimming, including the new ornaments that Grace and Whit pick out at the farm where we buy our tree every year. Our August trip to Legoland. Grace’s half chocolate, half vanilla birthday cakes. Birthday cakes always homemade. Sunday night family dinners, sitting down the four of us at 5pm. Doing the Ghostie Dance before putting Whit to bed. Grace wearing white to her end-of-year ceremonies at school. The letters I write to each child on their birthdays. Our annual stay at Lake Champlain, with its cocktails at sunset and bouncy castles and hayrides and primary color plastic cups and dinner at the Red Mill. Christmas Eve dinner with my oldest family friends, complete with lots of good red wine, singing carols at the table, and the children staying up until midnight. Dinner out at a special restaurant, the four of us, on the last day of the school year and the night before the new year starts.
Do you have things like this, things that never change amid the inexorable change of this life?
Do you prize them as much as I do?
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