When I was young I held the whole notion of tradition as pretty lame. What was the purpose of re-living the past? The song from “Fiddler on the Roof” implied as much. You might say we do it ….well because we do it. Is it instructional? I suppose some of it is, but I have concluded, we are a specie that needs tradition. It marks what formed us, or an important time, or place.
Having both Jews and Christians in my family we have plenty of tradition. Not to ignore the purely secular traditions of Thanksgiving, and Super Bowl Sunday. I have come to appreciate it all, and I look forward to the sobriety and/or the hoopla that comes with the various traditions.
And we create traditions within the family that may last a generation or two and then go away. When I was child we all piled into the old Packard and went to Coney Island on August 15th every year. It was Dad’s birthday. I guess this was his birthday present to himself. Seeing the six of us darting all over having a good time until it got late. We only got a one 10-ride ticket each. So when our tickets were fully punched, we’d go to the exit where we would ask the people leaving the park if they had any tickets that still had rides left. We were a pathetic bunch of dusty little urchins, but we had no idea that maybe we should be embarrassed. We weren’t.
When my wife Jane died my sons and I decided to spill the ashes into the ocean on her next birthday April 30th. We went the beach house of her friend Jackie and she asked some other friends to come and we planned a very nice ceremony over the brunch Jackie had prepared. Each person read a few verses from the beautiful poem my friend Steve wrote. After the ceremony my sons stepped into the chilly April ocean and released the ashes from the urn. Now on April 13,th the anniversary of the day I asked her to marry me I go to the beach and plant a rose in the surf and wait there until a wave takes it down and out to sea. I repeat that ritual on her birthday and again on our wedding anniversary, October 26th. It’s just another tradition that connects us to what was, and is, important.