Traditions: A Pleasant Tie that Binds Us by Kassie Ritman

“After our faith, tradition is one of the greatest gift we can share with our children. They tether our memories and comfort us alongside the liturgical waymarks of our years together.”

As Christians, we are bound together as believers in Jesus. As Catholics, our faith holds us up with the everlasting grace and providence of the sacraments. Within our own homes, traditions are a pleasant tie binding us together as a family unit. We all have our own rich family traditions; belonging to us in whole or borrowed from others and refashioned into something we’ve made our own. After our faith, tradition is one of the greatest gift we can share with our children. They tether our memories and comfort us alongside the liturgical waymarks of our years together.

In my regular blog posts I alternate between writing about writing, and writing specifically to preserve family stories. One of the ways I’ve found to be most useful for gleaning stories for my readers and from my own relatives is to start conversations about traditions.

*Why do we always have Cherry Delight on the holiday table?

*Remember when we all had to leave our ties on until Dad got the perfect family photo in front of the bushes at St Agnes after Easter?

*When I was a kid, the littlest one got to lead the way down the stairs each Christmas morning, we nearly trampled poor Joe every year!

advent 2013 pic 1Think about your own family and the traditions that were either planned or developed in a more “organic” manner. How precious are these memories to you? As an icebreaker, how many of them can you share with relatives you haven’t seen for a long time? The years melt away once the beautiful repetition we call tradition begins.

I believe it is within our nature as Catholics to crave and seek the comfort of an ordered way of looking upon our lives. We cross ourselves with fingers dipped lightly into holy water as we enter into a room anywhere across the globe, look past a large table and up to see a crucifix and know, because of these symbols and traditions, that we are home. The language may be foreign, the setting unfamiliar, but we are assured there will be an order to this time, a set pattern of expectations and actions. A shower of graces is at hand.

Recently, I’ve run into a couple of bloggers who are doing something cool. I’m talking about preserving family stories. These clever authors are doing it “as it happens,” starting with babyhood for their grandbaby or own little one!

Longtime blogger Locksands welcomed her new grandchild with a round of thoughts describing the world, and the day, and the people she was being born into the arms of in contrast to her own years here. It was fabulous! What a terrific idea, certainly a way to go over and above presenting a blank and perfunctory “Baby’s 1st Year” album.

Dorian and her Mama are doing a bang-up job of documenting her little, adorable, wanna-smoosh-and-kiss-those-fleshy-baby-cheeks days via blogging as a team.

Here in “Mom-land,” I have a long standing tradition (let’s count here…my oldest is now in the 22nd grade…yes…I’ve done it now for 23 years). Annually, on the first day of school, I’ve made my Sweeties stand in front of the same bush at the front of our house to have a photo taken. For the sake of identifying the grade level, they’ve been directed to hold up enough fingers to correspond with the grade they were about to start… that part didn’t always work. Kindergarten was a zero made with their fingers to look like an “okay” sign. Freshman year of high school, we reverted back to one and worked our way back up to a four finger showing for senior year. As college started, again, the single finger for freshman year and so on. Siblings were added and absent from the photos as they aged in and out of the school years.

One summer we moved to a new house just before school started. Along with the excitement of their new rooms, the kids thought they would also be gifted with an end to the annual “photos and fingers” ritual. Sorry kids, a new crop of photo-shrubs came with the new home!

Some years the group was excited and compliant. Other years they were surly and down right grouchy. In many shots they seem to be cringing with embarrassment because cars were passing by on the street.

“What if someone sees us?!” they growled into my camera. But, kid after kid–year after year–Mom won. I got my photo!

My goddaughter’s parents came up with an exceptional idea for photos. Recently, we all enjoyed the fruits their dedication at their daughter’s wedding. Brit was born on the 22nd of the month. Starting in the first moments of her arrival and continuing monthly then, on each subsequent 22nd through her second birthday they filmed her for a few minutes. With imperfect (at times they missed by a week or so) but amazing amount of diligence, they were able to select a quick little 15-30 second snippet of video showcasing who she was on that particular day and what she was doing. First Communion, birthday candles on big pony princess cakes, Christmas mornings by the tree ringed knee deep in gifts we all cleverly edited in. Sort of like the bush in our “first day of school” photo shoots, their backdrops changed over the years. So did the video recording equipment and format. Eventually siblings started to appear in “cameos” on the “22nd” video clips– not to worry though, each of the younger brothers and sisters also had their own day of the month for “stardom.

They stuck with the task, keeping up with the giant (and often expensive) leaps technology took over the years. They had to constantly upgrade and transfer their precious moments from 8mm to Beta to VHS to digital and on to the “Cloud” and YouTube. The payoff came when we were all teared up seeing this near 30 year compilation roll by on a special screen at the newlywed’s reception. Certainly an awesome payoff for the proud in-house paparazzi.

My beautiful bride of a goddaughter was truly moved. I don’t think she ever considered that Mom and Dad were constantly organizing and preserving all those silly film clips into a larger work.

It’s never too early or too late to try something new or to revive a treasured custom from times long past. You can use these examples with your own talents to keep the memories alive via the loving ties of tradition . Whether you write, blog, take photos, share recipes and the stories behind them, or choose something completely different it will be appreciated (eventually). The real treasure here is in showing a connection from our past and then helping usher it into the future–as effortlessly as fingers blessed by gliding through holy water.

About Kassie

kassie ritmanKassie Ritman is a writer who happens to love family history. She authors a how-to blog and hosts workshops for others interested in recording life events and personal histories of family. Kassie lives with her husband, 3 kids, a granddaughter and a ridiculously unaware-of-his canine-condition Golden Retriever named Levi. She is also a regular columnist for the International Society of Family History Writers and Editors, a reviewer for Tuscany Press, and holds membership in The Catholic Writer’s Guild, and Indiana Genealogist’s Society. Her work has appeared on True Words Journal, Story Circle Network, and will soon be on Flying Island and the 2014 SCN Anthology (releasing January). See her blog at Maybe someone should write that down…

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