Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Traditions are worth the effort



I am a stickler for tradition, particularly this time of year.  I've always been that way and I suspect, I'll be that way until the ticker gives out.  Some would say I'm not open to change, I say while change is inevitable, traditions help keep you grounded in your personal history.

The core of our family traditions have been challenged to say the least since grandma's dementia diagnosis.  I was so grateful to have thought to capture her making her famous noodles that have been a staple passed down from generations from her grandma to her mom to her.  She took immense pride in seeing us all line up in the kitchen and drooling over her noodles and making sure we all had enough for leftovers.  It wasn't Thanksgiving weekend if Saturday you weren't ankle deep in grandma's noodles mixed with turkey and a carb hangover that would've been a welcome way to go.  It was her way of sharing the women she loved in her life with the people she loved...a connection to the past.

Turkey was the meat of choice for Thanksgiving of course (somehow ham got thrown in there along the way) but for Christmas it was always beef roast and noodles.  We would salivate at the thought of her roast, mashed potatoes and noodles.  It was worth every pound on the scale.  My aunt who now hosts basically every holiday, has taken on the task of preparing the noodles and if you're not a fan of cooking, it can be daunting.  But it's something we all appreciate because especially now, it's our connection to grandma...the past her...the her that knew and loved us enough to take the time to prepare it as her mother and mother's mother did.

It is well known I do not get my cooking prowess from my mom.  She's all about boxes, packages and eating out.  She took it upon herself to tell my aunt that she should nix the beef and noodles this year and make marzetti because it's "less hassle."  When my aunt mentioned it to her kids they vehemently objected and she said I likely would as well.  She was right and I told her no offense but I agreed with her kids.  (Both adults)  She said honestly, she didn't not want to make them but just kind of tested the waters to see how important it was and found out quickly it was very important.

Roasts are easy, chuck 'em in a crockpot...done.  The noodles are time consuming but they are still appreciated and I know she feels self conscious about them sometimes because she'll check with people to see if they're okay or say "I never know when they're done for sure!"  I plan to write her a thank you note letting her know her effort is appreciated, doesn't go unnoticed and it's a way to keep the love grandma put into them over the many holidays alive.  It's truly something that if it was taken away, we'd probably rethink how we spend Christmas Day.  The past few years have just been super depressing due not only to grandma's condition but griping and unsavory situations we have to be bombarded with from others.  It's not like gifts are exchanged anymore and I know this sounds bad but if it was just gathering with the same people after seeing them 4 days prior as we do every year for a pot of marzetti and 'whatever is easy'...it just wouldn't feel like the holidays grandma worked so hard to create for all of us.  It's not like all of the work is piled on my aunt, it's a potluck.  For Thanksgiving I brought 4 pies, a batch of cookies, stuffing and sweet potatoes.  The Mr was like "hell, what are other people bringing??"  Someone made a knock off of my cheeseball but they never put forth the effort I put into it which is why more than half is left when they do it.  When I do it, people fight over it and keep going back for more.  All it takes is cutting scallions and using the right cream cheese.  Very little effort, massively different result.

Sorry, I don't mean to sound like I'm ungrateful or want things my way or I'm taking my toys and going home.  It's just becoming exhausting and to change even more than what has already changed is feeling like the tipping point for my nerves.  Honestly, I feel like we all just need a break from them.  I wouldn't feel bad skipping Christmas day "festivities" altogether this year.  I just feel like people's hearts aren't in it and I really don't feel like forcing something if we're all just putting on fake faces.  While I would miss gathering with my family that day, there are now many more elements I wouldn't miss.  I hate that I feel like this especially since those of you who have followed me for any amount of time know this was always my favorite time of year.

The only thing I can count on anymore is myself.  The tradition of baking I do for others that aren't going to have cookies otherwise because of illness or personal issues that make baking a low priority helps me feel grounded in Christmas spirit and tradition.  I use some of the same recipes grandma used and it reminds me of our Christmas cookie baking when I was a kid.  (It was all fun and games until the inevitable flour fight which she would tolerate unless you got it in her hair and then the smack was put down....after one of us snuck a flour hand print on her back or butt.)  That's what I'm doing today...with Christmas music blasting, tree blazing and a table loaded with cooling racks.  This is a tradition I will do as long as I can.

What traditions are so much a part of your holiday, it wouldn't be the same without them?

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7 comments:

  1. When I came into your family the noodles were all the rave. Every single person wanted to make sure I tried the noodles and I now think of the noodles as part of my holiday tradition too. The thought that they would stop making those now is jarring. I'm glad they came to their senses but we may need to remind them of just how important tradition is. I can vouch for that because I came from a family that doesn't have much in the way of traditions and, trust me, I'd much rather have the traditions I get to share from your family than nothing at all, so they really need to remember their fortunes there.

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    1. Yes, jarring is a good word for it. The talk we had after I wrote this meant a lot. I know noodles isn't everyone's thing but it was the one thing I wanted to share with you when we started dating and hoped you liked it. It truly is a fortune when you can have recipes generations old still be a part of the holidays.

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  2. So many traditions have been lost from Hubby passing and now with my Mom moving in with me. My favorite was all 4 brothers and their families and mine converging at my Mom's house in Iowa on Christmas night. 25 peeps crammed in a 10X12 room and nobody uncomfortable with the closeness. Always a childhood game played super competitively. Last time 2 years ago was rockem sockem robots!! Last year was no other family but my 2 sons. I have dreamed about mixing it up with a cruise but funds and vacay days don't add up for that.
    Christmas Eve night Hubs always had a beautifully wrapped jewelry box on the tree with bling! His last Christmas, he was so sick and weak that he could barely walk. I was so shocked to find that maroon box on the tree. I can only guess that he talked them into delivering the gift. To this day that is a mystery and no one has owned up to going shopping for it.
    Tomorrow night, I will be picking up one of my favorite packages at the airport, my 22 year old will be home!
    I can't wait, I have missed him so much since he went away to college. Funny how as soon as you really like them, they grow up and move away.
    Have a great day

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    1. Life has a cruel way of changing your traditions without asking. Would it be possible for next year to have the brothers converge on your place? Maybe it could be brought up to see how it would go over. (Unless of course you don't want that much closeness in your own place! HA!) Enjoy the time with your son. I'm sure some of the best parts of your husband are in him.

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  3. Growing up my folks and I had some small traditions, but with no extended family close it was always just the three of us and that was kind of a tradition in itself.

    Now I have some traditions with my son - we go get movie popcorn and drive around looking at Christmas lights, we bake massive quantities of cookies, and now I have Christmas pickle on the tree (after years of looking I finally found one last year). I use to do a lasagna on Christmas Eve - but it just got to be too much food with the overdoing I always do on Christmas day.

    I'm so glad the noodles are going to be continued. I understand why your aunt doesn't really want to do them, but I also know why it's so important to you that someone does, and I'm glad your cousins agree with you.

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  4. We didn't have much in terms of traditions other than a couple of things. Mom ALWAYS had to use her China no matter what. Never, ever an option to just keep it simple and use regular dishes. And none of her China could go in the dishwasher so it was all done by hand. Then there is a Christmas box that mom and I would pass back and forth every year. The joke was neither of us could remember who had the box last so we'd have to go digging through all our Christmas supplies to see which one had it. Now with mom gone, neither of those scenarios will be taking place. I will be making the traditional meal she always made with a beef roast and mashed potatoes, but it certainly won't be the same. I told my hubs how weird it's going to be to be home on Christmas which we haven't been for 20 years. The only other tradition I can think of is the hubs and I have bought an ornament every year since we met. I was scrambling this week doing stuff and he surprised me by coming home with an ornament and it's one I would have picked out myself, so I was quite happy to have it -- and to cross it off my list. =o)

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  5. A tradition we lost when my Grandma passed was standing around the piano singing carols. I still miss it every single year. :-(

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