Family tradition

October 2, 2009 at 11:22 am Leave a comment

Every family is like a little country, with citizens, government and cultural traditions.  The form of government that worked best in our family growing up was a form of Marxist cooperation.  When we cooperated, things ran smoothly. When we did whatever was required of us “with good grace,” things ran even better.  For example, let’s say the oldest needed the car to get to his job dispensing soda at Jimmy’s in Milford.  But the next oldest had a babysitting job in Hamden. The third child wanted to go to the movies…in some families this situation would end up in loud shouts, slammed doors and squealing tires. Not at our house! The oldest would drop the younger one at the movies, swing by the babysitting job, and get to Jimmy’s 45 minutes early where he would sit in the parking lot reading Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine. Maybe he would not have done it “with good grace,” but God knows he would have done it, without involving any raised voices or slammed doors. The tires might have squealed a little, but definitely out of earshot of the parents.

Decades later, we pride ourselves on having made it through those formative years without so much as a dent in our family structure.  Whatever grievances we may nurse deep down, we ride a pleasant wave of nostalgia and good feelings whenever we get together.  When the parents’ fortieth anniversary loomed, two of us got to talking about what to give the loving couple.  Perhaps forty of something? How about a roll of quarters? suggested my older brother.  We thought a little longer and came up with the best gift kids could ever give their parents (apart from a rhyming tribute, that is, and Lord knows we’ve given plenty of those): Forty Happy Memories.  Thus began a tradition of publishing little booklets at our local copy shop of Forty Happy Memories, a page per memory, first for the parents, then for each child as s/he turned forty.  When the kids started turning fifty, the books morphed into Fifty Reasons Why We Love … (fill in the blank).  Now, everyone I know has a whole storehouse of unhappy memories, and plenty of reasons why we rather resent certain people, but these little books help us all remember what it is that makes being a close-knit family such a good idea.

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