Sunday, October 09, 2005


I'm a big fan of tradition. It's partly the routine of it but it's not a need for repetitive action. It's milestones, it's landmarks, it's a yearning for the vaguest hint that I'm headed in the right direction to get where I'm going.

I figured this out this summer with the many weddings. Both brides seemed staunchly against most traditions. Which is fine with me, too. I mean, I don't think that a tradition that one finds offensive or that simply doesn't serve you should be included. But I think that a lot of the time people strike all traditions universally without looking at what that tradition might give you. Like a Best Woman (or man or maid of honor or whatever) has a job. For each bride that job is going to be different but if you choose the person who really knows you and supports you best then your Best will know exactly what to do or how to get you to tell them. As an actress I can attest to the great relief that is provided by someone who is there to serve your needs on the day of performance.

Probably the tradition I love best (and that is so strongly frowned upon) is that of traditional vows.

"I (Your Name Here) take you (The Other One's Name Here) to be my lawful wedded (husband/wife/spouse) to have and to hold for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, for richer or for poorer, to love, honor and cherish as long as we both shall live."

I like the idea of ritual phrases, of the fact that these words have been spoken by other wedding participants for hundreds of years. And think about it, think of all the personalized vows that you've heard over your wedding attendances, and tell me that those traditional words don't encompass all the personalized vows and more. I'm not against personalized vows, they're just not for me and I'm trying to say why.

Also, it's not just weddings where I like my tradition. Turkey on Thanksgiving, Ham on Christmas, dressing up as a tap dancing skeleton on Halloween. I like the landmarks. Like taking the same Christmas photo every year so you can note the changes in each person over time. All my life the one tradition I kept to was Christmas Eve with my dad's dad since that was Robbie's birthday. He died in November of 2000 and the following Christmas Eve some family members stuck to the tradition, having one last hurrah at the homestead, and others seemed almost relieved not to have to go. I still miss it every year. Last year, I had a good time doing all the things I wanted to do and yet...I still didn't love it. I still cried for the loss of my landmark. Which I guess is one hint that I haven't found the right "replacement tradition" for that day.

I've reinvented Thanksgiving practically a dozen times. We used to spend it with grandparents. Then when I was in college JAM started working the Macy's parade I decided to claim Thanksgiving as my own, to celebrate in New York, to learn to cook the meal on my own and eventually to invite my friends and convince them all to abandon their families on this special day as well. I loved doing that. But I spent one year in London and another in Michigan and one in Ohio and JAM and I weren't together anymore but all the people who attended the dinner are friends with both of us so I bowed out. It was the right decision but I still miss that, too. The past few years I've developed my own tradition which I like a lot. I spend the morning delivering meals for God's Love We Deliver and the afternoon cooking for myself and watching the traditional Thanksgiving movies, Home for the Holidays and Pieces of April. This year I'm even testing out a new element. A Friday open house for people to come and eat leftovers and tell stories about how good or bad or weird their Thursday was.

I've got other traditions too. Today marked another, more frequent one. When I finally moved back here to New York after the jaunts overseas and through the midwest PonyExpress and I felt we needed/wanted to be more social, to see our friends more often. We knew that we couldn't handle a ton of planning or variety and that our favorite meal of the week was brunch. So we have this very casual once a month brunch thing. The watchword is casual. We send out an e-mail to a group of friends the previous Sunday with a location and we always go at noon and whoever wants to come can come. If you feel like telling us you're coming great, if not also great. If you get up on Sunday morning and suddenly decide, "Hell yeah!" then come on down. We try to choose places where we can have some flexibility and don't need a reservation.

We've been doing this for something like four years now and it works pretty well. I've only been completely stood up once. We usually have between 6 and 8 people, sometimes less and more times than you might think we have 12 or 14 people. Today I was not in such fine form. I got there early to a place I hadn't fully checked out that had a huge line. I put my name on the list for the 5 people I thought we'd be. Then I checked my phone and the other 4 people had left a message saying they were opting for Wallace and Grommit instead. I decided to wait and see how things panned out anyway. MarkyB showed up. I waited some more. It seemed clear it'd be just us and I was hungry so I changed us to 2 people - just trying to be nice to the host, you know. I got back outside, gave Mark the update and BAM, S&C showed up. So I conned S into going in to change the numbers for me. It was fine but funny. It did end up being just the 4 of us, which was super nice. It seems that for the bulk of the last year I've always been at the other end of the table from S&C so I got to catch up on their doings and spend some more quality time with Mark, too.

My favorite brunch story, though, is the time we shamed a host. We put out the call for Acme, which is a favorite, and had heard nothing back from anyone. So PonyExpress and I waited until about 12:15 and spoke to the host. We asked, as we often do, for a table with room to grow since we were 2 now and we figured we'd be 6 and we might be as much as 10. The host was a lovely young man, he gave us a look that said essentially, "What a nice pair of delusional women." He gave us a table in one corner of the room far, far away from the rest of the patrons. We noted his look and giggled about it and felt a little stupid and ordered a drink. 20 minutes later we were sitting at the head of a table of 14 people and the host would have looked properly impressed had he not been running his ass off trying to serve us all.

I love tradition. The ones that make you smile and give you good stories and gather the people you really love around you. You should try it some time, you might like it.

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