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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