Forward Living: The little traditions can go a long way

It started a few years back when my sister Nancy and I, by chance, purchased the same birthday card for each other. I don’t recall who sent the card first, but clearly the sentiments expressed told the story of our special sisterhood. Because we both cherished that particular card, we decided to continue to mail it to one another with a personal inscription on our birthdays. We’ve dubbed it: “Our traveling birthday card.” 

Wherever we are on our birthdays, the card is sent to that location. Like airline miles, it’s fun to log in the miles it has traveled and more fun to read the inscriptions. So far, it has journeyed to New Jersey, Pennsylvania, California, Oregon and Long Island — and who knows where in the future.

Nancy and I have unwittingly created a new tradition in a world where tradition has gone the way of the dinosaur. As Tevye sings in the musical “Fiddler on the Roof”: “And how do we keep our balance? Tradition! Tradition!” Not so fast, Tevye … we live in a disposable society where the fabric of family life has changed in response to the world in which we live.

Many folks maintain their holiday traditions and some do not. I am appalled by the utter disregard for one of the most sacred holidays: Thanksgiving. Some big box stores are opening as early as 5 p.m. Consumers fl ock to said stores for a bargain — completely oblivious to the “bargain” of having family together. (Perhaps when they lose a loved one, they may reconsider.)

Giving thanks for the blessings of our lives has been replaced by consumerism. How sad. And equally sad is that folks who work in retail are forced to become “crowd-pleasers.” Kudos to the few stores who refused to open on Thanksgiving Day. But as long as folks are willing to leave their homes and line up to get crushed in a shopping melee, the profit-mongers will keep their doors open.

When I was growing up, we attended 11 a.m. Mass every Sunday. At 2 p.m. sharp, we enjoyed a traditional Sunday dinner. Our grandparents were in attendance as well as aunts, uncles and cousins. The menu was simple and did not vary much: salad, pasta, meatballs and a roast of some kind.

Later in the afternoon, Dad sent the older kids to the store for cream soda and ice cream. How simple our needs were. We weren’t in our own worlds, tapping away on our electronic devices; we interacted with each other.

Life was a tad different when my sons were growing up. We did strive to eat dinner together (difficult at times with two working parents). On Sunday morning we attended church as a family and enjoyed “Sunday dinners.” We made precious “remember when” memories at those dinners, as evidenced by my son’s recollections during my recent trip to California.

I moderate a youth group at my church. “My kids” are bright, other-centered and have taught me a thing or two, including introducing me to my new favorite groups: One Republic and Imagine Dragons. It’s a win-win situation. However, many sports require Sunday meets. Nowadays, churches are in competition with sports!

Families are kept super busy with little or no time or interaction. Families are blended; families are separated by distance or death. Regrettably, there are “throwaway” families — families that cease to exist because of a long-held grudge.

Tradition can encompass a wide range of spoken beliefs, culture, heritage rituals or philosophies. These practices are taught and passed on from one generation to another. I think of myself as an unconventional gal and, I admit, only a few of my traditions survived. Yet I’m delighted that Nancy and I have created a new tradition.

Someday our kids will fi nd our traveling card among our mementos. Will they carry and pass the torch? I would like to think so.

I hold that lovely thought tightly within my heart. For now, it will have to be enough.

Iannelli_CMs. Iannelli is a resident of Jamesport.