Monday, December 7, 2015

Tradition of the Expected & Unexpected

Our many lights! The 3 on left are Oldest Son's and the 4 on the right are Youngest Son's. The ones in the middle have various stories: Commuter's Husband's first Hanukkiah, 2 are gifts to me from boys, 1 is from Mexico art gallery bought in 2008 and the black one was a gift from my Brother's wife in 1996. Oldest Son was lighting the 2 electric Hanukkiah in window sill.

Commuter Husband and I are raising our kids under a set of circumstances:
  • No Grandparents to shape how we do things:
    • Both of Commuter's Husband's parents passed away long before the boys were born
    • My mother died when I was a child and I have had little interaction with my father during my adult life
  • Until this past Summer, my brother was in the Army thus we have traveled many times throughout the last 20 years to where he was based by the military to share family time and holidays
  • Commuter Husband and I both converted to Judaism
The impact has been that we have 100% defined our own traditions. There is not one single tradition that we have carried forth from Commuter Husband's or my childhood; not one. We have consciously recognized this situation and I think about it with every holiday, every birthday and many other times when a tradition would be conjured up.

This scenario has created an interesting dynamic. While we have committed to maintaining traditions for our family, I am also open to adjusting as we go. It is obvious that Oldest Son and Youngest Son appreciate and want the familiar. This is part of what makes them feel safe and loved in a stable family environment. At the same time, the new adventure or a twist on the celebratory approach is also part of how we define ourselves as a family and the boys see this is a tradition as well.

Chanukah started yesterday. We did the comfortable and valued traditions:
  • Arrange all our many Hannukiahs on a table in front of the window
  • Put out a few decorations for the windows and our counters
  • Set out the box of gelt available for the week
  • Make matzo ball soup and pick up latkes from Cyndi's
  • Read from the same book and recite the prayers as we light the candles
  • Open the two gifts that have a dreidel for each son which has evolved into their dreidel collection
  • And 1st night is always with just our family of four
Each year we try to open gifts on the 1st night and the 8th night (we decided many years ago that 8 nights of gifts was just too much.) Oldest Son and Youngest Son are 15 and 13, respectively. Thus, this year we had a slight adjustment. Commuter Husband and I surprised them with a shopping spree to pick out their gifts together. The shopping event created a shared family experience and memories especially with teens boys who are not really big shoppers. The stores we hit included Nike, North Face, Macy's, Barnes & Noble and Best Buy. Thus we covered sports, outdoor activities, clothes, books, games and electronics. We also saw the bustle and festive air of a mall at Christmas which the boys had never seen. We had lots of interactions: we laughed and new inside jokes formed (somehow the Nike windbreaker that cost $500 because it was the "5th level" cracked us up), the boys made decisions and sometimes we got impatient but mostly the boys had fun selecting their gifts and we had fun watching them.

For the next 7 nights, we typically share a few of the 8 nights with friends but the who, the what and the when varies every year. The combination of the expected and the unexpected that defines our Commuter Family is always present ... 
The shadows are awesome!
Latke Larry, a gift many years ago, watches over latkes from Cyndi's. He also sings funny songs!
We will add two more dreidels to this collection ...

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