In the past few years, as my daughter, Ellie, (and I) have matured and the definition of “family” has been altered by the passing of loved ones, the ache of broken relationships, and the faltering energy available to the demands of the holidays, we’ve begun to contemplate which “traditions” should be fostered and which should be set free. As she and I have looked at the realities of our lives, we’re seeing that different doesn’t have to mean less meaningful. When Ellie and I engaged in an exchange of our thoughts about “where we go from here”, it’s enlightening and heartening to see that our perspectives are very much intertwined. From my point of view, it seems that she’s trying to juggle her love and compassion for her mom, who is flying solo at age 66, and her love and affection for her boyfriend and her close circle of friends. It dawns on me that, when I was her age, I was also seeking to bond with my “family” of friends around holidays, because my traditional family had change for many of the same reasons as she and I are facing now. As a means to an end of holding onto our traditions while altering them to fit our present lives, Ellie has begun the process of reaching out to her friends to draw them into our traditions. I am inspired to do the same. Last Christmas, we clung to much of the routine of our holiday with the exception of a dramatic decrease in decorating. Ironically, Easter was really the beginning of our realization that we needed to adapt to “the changing times” and occurred purely by accident.
My daughter, Eleanor, (Ellie) is an actor with the late nights out and late morning sleep-ins that are typical of that lifestyle. I had bought her (and myself) our traditional new Easter outfits. On Easter morning, while sleeping in her old bedroom, I tried to wake her several times so that we could make the final service at our church. I could see that she was exhausted and I made the tough decision to resign myself to the fact that we just weren’t going to make it. When she was finally able to rouse herself, it was 10:45. The service was at 11:00. She was very upset when she realized that our usual Easter day of dressing up, attending church, and wandering 5th Avenue to look at the amazing outfits created for the Easter Parade was not going to happen. However, she quickly rebounded when I suggested we put on our new attire and broad-brimmed hats, have a cup of tea, and watch the service streamed on-line (Hooray for Marblevision!). After the service, I prepared brunch and we had a relaxing, unhurried breaking of the bread before she had to head off for a Sunday matinee performance. In one gentle experience, we began to see that, although we had passed through some dramatic changes in our lives, we could find our way to holding onto some of our traditions that we truly value and give us pleasure, but also be OK with some letting go when change is required. As Ellie told me, the nice thing about our Easter day was realizing that we don’t need to do new things or have more people to have a fulfilling holiday.
So…Advent being a time of preparation for the tradition that honors a very big change in the world dynamic, Ellie and I will begin laying out plans for how our traditions could, simultaneously, hold fast and loosen while honoring the love, generosity, and gratitude that is exemplified by the nativity story of Jesus.
I am committed to trying and am hopeful that Ellie and I are bravely stepping onto the path of our own Advent passage to new and joy-filled traditions.