It’s Tradition

“The family – that dear octopus from whose tentacles we never quite escape, nor, in our innermost hearts ever quite wish to.” — Dodie Smith

I love traditions that endure.  They may morph, become slightly diluted, be maintained while slightly deluded – it matters little.  Traditions add dimension to the family construct, providing the shading and nuance that help complete the picture.  It informs our history and clarifies elements of our future – what do I hope my children will choose to carry forward?  What elements of their history and our traditions will they value and hold?

As I watched my father-in-law preside over the Seder on Monday, I was struck by the simplicity and complexity of family traditions.  The delight in hearing the youngest children ask the four questions.  The enthusiastic negotiations that ensue once the Afikomen has been found.  My father-in-law beamed with pride, while still maintaining an air of amused gravitas.  Each child kissed and congratulated for their detective work.  Parents smiling so broadly – some relief undoubtedly mixed in with all that love.  The miracle of generations sharing the secret recipe for creating the perfect olio that makes each family unique, its traditions singularly their own.

And as my brother-in-law referenced those who were not in attendance – his daughter and her family in LA, his mom, my mind secretly wished that my parents were still here, that there were more traditions still to be had in their home.  And though this isn’t about them, I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you that there were memories that shone in my mind’s eye with primary-color-like clarity.   I saw a picture my sister had posted with our family’s seder plate in the middle of her table, and my reaction was visceral.  Can a heart turn upside down and still beat?

As I looked around the table though, I was also struck by that which was not seen.  The dynamics that are tested, the hurt that only family members can inflict upon each other with or without intention.  The fibers that are being stretched too thin, the ones that are in the process of being rewoven with such care to ensure they are stronger and more pliable than ever before.  Each person’s story as it related to the others, replete with love, frustration, an intractable wish to be understood.  These are traditions too – and though arguably not those which we choose to carry forward, they move forward with us nonetheless.  Our conscious choice is what we do with them.  Family dynamics are rarely enviable – they’re too complex, too imperfect, too full.  At some point, we decide which elements are worthy of retention – the good and the not-so-great – the aspects that will comfort, delight and nurture us and those that may always move us to tears.  These I suppose are the traditions of the heart, the way we pass on the concept of family.  It is part of our legacy, so I would suggest that we choose well.  It becomes our imprimatur, our tacit approval for what will become critical elements of our family tradition.  May it always begin and end with love.

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After a few days away, it’s a little challenging to get back behind the wheel. So, I offer you this – a moment of delight from Lead.Learn.Live (davidkanigan.com). Enjoy!

Live & Learn

Michael Bublé and 15-year old Sam.  Sam sings a few bars.  Bublé’s reaction?  Sam’s facial expressions? Priceless.


And if you haven’t had enough of Bublé (one of Burnaby, B.C. Canada’s favorite sons) and “Feeling Good”, here’s the full version…

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A Woman

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“A woman should have…

enough money within her control to move out

and rent a place of her own even if she never wants

to or needs to…

A woman should have…

something perfect to wear if the employer or her date of her

dreams wants to see her in an hour…

A woman should have…

a youth she is content to leave behind…

A woman should have…

a past juicy enough that she’s looking forward to

retelling it in her old age…

A woman should have…

a set of screwdrivers, a cordless drill, and a black

lace bra…

A woman should have…

one friend who makes her laugh and one who

lets her cry…

A woman should have…

a good piece of furniture not perviously owned by anyone

else in her family…

A woman should have…

eight matching plates, wine glasses with stems, and a

recipe for a meal that will make her guests feel honored…

A woman should have…

a feeling of control over her destiny

 

Every woman should know…

how to fall in love without losing herself…

Every woman should know…

how to quit a job,

break up with a lover,

and confront a friend without ruining the friendship…

Every woman should know…

when to try harder and when to walk away…

Every woman should know…

that she can’t change the length of her calves,

the width of her hips or the nature of her parents..

Every woman should know…

that her childhood may not have been perfect – but it’s over…

Every woman should know…

what she would and wouldn’t do for love or more…

Every woman should know…

how to live alone – even if she doesn’t like it…

Every woman should know…

whom she can trust,

whom she can’t,

and why she shouldn’t

take it personally…

Every woman should know…

where to go –

be it her best friend‘s kitchen table,

or a charming inn in the woods,

when her soul needs soothing…

Every woman should know..

what she can and can’t accomplish in a day,

a month, and a year.

–Pamela Redmond Satran

Mornings With Joanne

The weather was accommodating while Joanne was here – it rained without interruption.  As a result, we spent Tuesday inside – no distractions (but for the Sirs, who are very capable of disrupting anything for attention), no interruptions.  Although Jo and I see each other once or twice a year, we began our conversation wherever we left it last.  Given that this thread was picked up after forty-plus years of silence, it’s nothing short of amazing.

I can spot her anywhere – it’s her smile or her eyes moving from one point to another scouring the area around her to ensure its familiarity.  Or perhaps it is the intimate awareness that comes from understanding another soul so well that it can call you silently.  Alan said she has a ‘beautiful spirit’, a description that she wears far better than her too-loose jeans.

This year has been a test for which no one really prepared.  Hurricane Sandy hit her neighborhood almost as hard as it hit her husband’s business.  The intricacies of bureaucracies responsible for remediation challenged nerves already too frayed.  Rebuilding is expensive, exacting payment from one’s wallet and one’s sense of well-being.  She and Ben are well on their way, though anxiety chooses to linger and makes sure that its presence is never forgotten.  Jo reminds me of a kite – always has.  She flies and dips with the rhythm of the wind, making glorious loops and circles, dipping down precipitously and grandly, only to catch a gust of air to lift her up with easy gracefulness.  There is something about the sun and the breeze and Jo in flight – it’s a visual that never fails to delight.

Yet life teaches you that sometimes you have to be grounded.  You have to move forward in the far less appealing, plebian way of placing one weighted shoe in front of the next.  There is the need to be present when present is the very last thing one wants to be.  The relentless reminder that we are needed on this walking path.  There is no flight, no game of tag with the wind.  It is perhaps harder for those who revel in the movement of the air, those who are defined by their limitless potential for love, ideology, hope and a dash of resistant innocence.  I can see the little girl within, arms folded defiantly, her chin raised and her bangs almost shaking with the affront of being grounded.  And because I love her, I want for her to always feel the indescribable freedom of dancing in the air.  And because I love her, I suggest that there is beauty to be found on the footpath.

And just as she alit on Monday, she was off again on Wednesday morning to warmer climes.  But as is Joanne’s way, she left the essence of that spirit here.  Sitting in the kitchen on this early Saturday morning, drinking some coffee and regaling me with her tales from the sky…

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