Monday, May 17, 2010


I've written before that my family didn't have too many old-world cultural traditions to pass down. In fact, my family wasn't really big on traditions at all, beyond the American standards - presents and cake on birthdays, presents for Christmas, big Easter baskets, that sort of thing. Two of the few I can think of was that we'd go to Lasca's restaurant in Auburn for most major celebrations beginning in the late 1980s, and that we went to breakfast (at various places) on Sunday mornings. Those were good, but they weren't quite right for my young family.

My wife and I have created some of our own, however. Whether they'll continue beyond our generation won't be known for many years, but for now they add some fun to our family life. Here are some of my favorites:

Making Sauce - about every four months, I make up a huge pot of spaghetti sauce, carefully following my mother's recipe. Which is funny, because my mom didn't HAVE a recipe. She just tossed in the ingredients and measured by eyeball. I don't cook like that - once I get something the way I like it, I don't want to risk screwing it up by leaving out something important or using a tablespoon when I should be using a teaspoon. Moreso since I'm making sauce to last for months. I still have the paper where I had my mom measure and write down how much she used of each ingredient and I pull it out to use each time. But that's not the tradition. The tradition is that I put on my Godfather DVD and let it play while I work. It takes about 90 minutes from the time I get out the big pot to the time that I toss in the final ingredient, which means I make it almost all the way through the first Godfather movie (usually up to the part where Michael returns from Italy) and I get a little more than halfway through the Godfather Part II. Then I watch the end of the movie while getting up every few minutes to stir the sauce before turning it down to simmer.

But why, you ask? It's a seemingly-random tradition, I'll admit. Well, the association began because of the scene in the first Godfather movie where Clemenza teaches Michael Corleone how to make a pot of sauce. It's a pretty basic recipe, very similar to mine (except I use a lot more spices and I'm way more careful about how I toss it together), and the similarity just struck me. I began this tradition some twelve years ago, and have never failed to maintain it.

Piano Recitals - the next one's pretty simple: my daughter has about three piano recitals per year, and we've established the tradition of going to Olive Garden to eat afterward. It's my daughter's favorite restaurant and it's basically mine as well, so it's a nice reward for her and something I can enjoy as well.

Valentine's Day - my wife and I aren't really big fans of this hyper-commercialized holiday. Our tradition, and I confess this was my idea, is that we have chicken parmigiana for dinner on Valentine's day. What we DON'T do is buy overpriced flowers at this particular time of the year (though I make a point of getting some for my wife at various other times of the year because she's awesome and I love her dearly).

Groundhog Day - this is the tradition that we're most likely to forget to honor, but for quite a few years my wife and I watched Bill Murray's Groundhog Day every single year. We've tended to skip it while the kids were younger and we were busy with them all the time, but I can see us going back to this one in the coming years. It's a hilarious movie about an arrogant, self-centered man whose life is really empty. He's forced to live the same day over and over again, potentially thousands and thousands of times, during which he reaches rock bottom and then rebuilds his life into something worthwhile, with room in it for other people. It's not only one of Murray's funniest movies, but one with a worthwhile message if you take the time to think about it.

There are various other traditions big and small in our home - some of which I'm sure we don't even recognize as such because they're so ingrained to our daily lives. As the years go on, we'll likely add new ones and some of the older ones may not go the distance. Some may be carried on by our kids, and some won't. But right now, these are the most notable, and I think they help anchor us as a family - adding stability and fun to our lives. Feel free to comment on your favorites (or what you think of ours)!

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