tra·di·tion ~trəˈdiSH(ə)n/ noun
the transmission of customs or beliefs from generation to generation, or the fact of being passed on in this way.
THEOLOGY ~ a doctrine believed to have divine authority though not in the scriptures, in particular.
We all have them. Variations on a theme perhaps, but they exist in our hearts and often spill over into our present. Especially around the holidays. Memories that we annually duplicate with varying degrees of success. Like the ice-box cake Emmy used to make every Christmas. I know I speak glowingly of the woman but quite honestly, Martha Stewart she was not. Domesticity was not her long suit but she gallantly stepped up to the plate every day as she threw herself into hearth and home. I remember the time I asked her to help hem a coat dress ~ remember them? Well, when I put it on one end was at least two inches shorter than the other. Her solution was to just double fold the offending end. She giggled and said, “At least it’s the side that goes underneath.” She had the very best laugh.
Jay and I were walking the other morning with Riley and Harley and I was thinking about how lucky I am even though I have had some really bad stuff happen. I’ve had some really dark moments as I’ve wandered through this tunnel they call life, but then haven’t we all? A dear friend recently told his story of going to a shrink years ago, beginning with the opening, “you won’t believe this story.” The shrink replied, “with all respect, there are really only five stories…the rest are all variations on the theme.” We all like to think we are unique and individual. Special snowflakes, and to a certain extent we are. Yet the basic themes of our experiences are similar. Abandonment, grief, loss, love, happiness. There are more, I’m sure, but I’ll stop with the first five that came to mind. If you’re lucky the good themes outweigh the bad.
I started this blog a couple of years ago with encouragement from my high school BFF, Geri. When I got stuck, a childhood friend contacted me out of the blue and remembered things about me I had forgotten. How much I enjoyed writing. But I had to figure out what to write about. It is, and will always be, a post-by-post work in progress.
I’ve done some interesting things and had some fascinating experiences but as far as my daily life, I’m really a pretty run of the mill extroverted introvert. So, as in many other times during my life, I just started. While I usually have a general idea of what I want to say I never have any idea of how I get there. Some posts meander more than others. I have a feeling this is one of them, so please bear with me.
Holiday traditions during my childhood included my cousin, Patty. Our fathers were the two youngest of four sons and for many years were best friends. Patty and I visited Santa together. We spent Christmas Day together ~ and had a one-time holiday tradition of going to Radio City with our paternal grandmother to see the Rockettes.
Grandma Mafera was not a warm and fuzzy type. At all. In hindsight, it’s obvious that life had been unkind to her emotionally but at the time she just seemed cold and more than a bit preoccupied with human tragedy. Seriously, she kept what we called a “Book of Horrors” ~ a scrapbook containing newspaper clippings about terrible occurrences. I think that’s all you need to know right now about the skeletons in my familial closet.
Grandma was a great baker and every year on my birthday she would make a most delicious chocolate cake. We spent most of the summer I was seven in Rocky Point and I remember it and the party very well. It was my brother’s first summer and Rocky Point was pretty far out on Long Island and required a trek for all concerned. I remember my Grandmother attending said event and I also remember saying, “Look Grandma, I have a birthday cake with my name on it.” It was not chocolate and she did not bring it. It came from, gasp ~ a bakery. Unintentionally, I set off a family catastrophe. There was never another chocolate cake…for anyone. Ever. Honestly, I never really noticed but then I’m not a sweet person, literally. Years later Patty shared the tale. “Oh yeah, after that birthday Grandma stopped baking chocolate cakes because ‘Janet wanted a cake with her name on it.'” From this picture with both my grandmother’s on my brother’s first birthday ~ occurring a few months following mine at Rocky Point ~ I seem to think the cake from the bakery was more Emmy’s idea than mine. As you can see, Grandma Mafera is about as far as she can get from the offending cake without being out of the picture entirely. The end of THAT tradition.
Sadly, as happens in many families, a disagreement over something stupid led to estrangement so our holiday tradition began anew with our Locust Valley next door neighbors, the Fitzgibbons. We had wonderful times that included playing lengthy board games ~ Monopoly and Risk come to mind ~ during holiday breaks. Christmas fun with the Ouija board. When we asked what my father did, we expected the word “lawyer.” It spelled out “attorney.” We didn’t cheat, really. But when it spelled out the answer to a question neither Kathleen nor I knew the answer to we decided to move on to another game of Monopoly.
Summer traditions included summer barbeques, games of croquet and badminton in the backyard and kick ball in the circle. While our parents are gone what remains all these years later is a deep friendship that picks up with love no matter how much time has passed.
This holiday season I decided to make a family comfort food favorite. The recipe comes passed through Grandma Mafera given to my Mom. Over the years I remember much trial and error on the ingredients, as I think Grandma just might have omitted proper quantities, perhaps as retaliation for the “chocolate cake incident.” The recipes live in a copper box in a cabinet in the kitchen on the top shelf, along with many cook books I never use. To be fair, I’m my mother’s daughter. Not Martha Stewart’s.
For a reason I cannot logically explain, when I turned around to put the box back in the cabinet a Bible had fallen to the floor. My mother’s Bible. I admit it was a little freaky ~ the books sit far back on the shelves and I surely didn’t hear it fall.
Jay told me to open it and read whatever was there. I did, and it opened to the first page of a book I’d never heard of, let alone read. The book of Habakkuk. So I turned to google for an answer.
The major theme of Habakkuk is trying to grow from a faith of perplexity and doubt to the height of absolute trust in God.
Did I mention this all happened on Emmy’s birthday?
The Spanish Rice was excellent. Here’s the recipe ~ I promise the quantities on the top card are right!
There are no accidents!