Sunday, April 01, 2007

The gift of family traditions

I just got back from Texas, where I helped celebrate my nephew's second birthday. As you can see, he is already a stellar reader. (And you can see his poor hands are swollen, though much better then when I got there, from being bitten by a horde of fire ants. He would hold them out for me and say "Owwies, Teen!"—his pronunciation of my name. Gotta love Texas!)

We visited a nearby lake one overcast day. The boys (2 and 4) flew a kite with the help of their dad. Later, my sister and I broke into the "Let's Go Fly a Kite" song from Mary Poppins. As a family, whenever we flew a kite, we always ended up singing that song at some point. My sister and I grew up with virtually no television (and what we did see was tightly controlled), but we were allowed to watch a lot of classic musicals, and it wasn't uncommon for my mom to burst into a song appropriate to different occasions, many from these movies.

One of the first things my sister and I did when we got to the water's edge was look for shells. We just both naturally bent over and started looking and comparing. Soon the boys, bored with the inactivity involved in kite flying, came over to join us and started looking, too.

We are carrying on a tradition that also came from our mom and dad (well, mostly our mom). Both our parents are beach lovers, and we spent many good and fun times camping near the beach or just going for day visits (we always lived no more than two hours away from the Pacific ocean the whole time we were kids, and it's one of the things I miss the most being out here in a land-locked state). Just like my nephews, my sister and I got in the act of looking for shells or bits of polished glass when we were just toddlers, and it's something we naturally continue and enjoy today.

It was fun for both of us to relive these good memories of family time, and think about the gifts our parents have given us. Traditions that we continue today, and things that we are passing on to our parent's grandchildren.

When I come visit I usually have books stowed away in my suitcase that I bring out every night. (One night, while J. was trying to pick a book to read for that evening, he said, "Let's just get one more out of your suitcase, Auntie Christine!" even though I hadn't told him there were more where those others came from.) My sister and brother-in-law read to the kids before naps and before bedtime, just like my mom used to read to us when we were young (when I was perhaps five, I surprised my grandmother by "reading" her a whole book that I'd actually just memorized).

I just hope that the youngest hasn't inherited my (lack of) fashion sense (another inherited gift from my dad). I remember once my mom coming up with a complicated system of matching clothes that had number or letter combinations on the hangers so my dad could dress in clothes and ties that matched. Here is E. in a pajama top, diapers, and rain boots right before bedtime (he is also peaking at his birthday presents).

Here is the family having some fun in the backyard with the bubble machine and various toys. When I was a kid, we'd go to parks after church (we lived a ways from our church, so would spend the day at a park between the morning and evening service). Sometimes we played lawn darts or other games after our picnic. It is nice to think about those times and know that my boys are having the same kind of experiences with parents who care that they have fun outside.

Enjoy your childhood, boys. And thanks, mom and dad.

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