As usual I spent most of my Easter weekend writing poems. No, we do not have a poetry fest for Easter, nor do we serenade each other. But many years ago I started a family tradition that I have since come to regret. I hide the Easter baskets and leave a trail of clues for each child to find them--rhymed clues no less. It turns Easter baskets into a treasure hunt. I started this when my children were just able to read. They loved it, and demanded it when they were really too old to have Easter baskets at all.
Now it's been passed down to my grandchildren and since one lot of them are always with me on Easter Sunday, they look forward to finding Nana's Easter baskets. Actually it's fun to watch them cross paths with frowns on their faces, muttering "you'd use me only if you're wet and stand me up to drip, I bet." Then shriek "The umbrella stand".
But it means that I have to come up with those cryptic clues, and not the same ones as last year. I have memories of getting up really early on Easter Sunday morning, sitting alone in the still of the house composing four sets of clues (at least five clues per child to make it a long enough trail), then creeping around and hiding all the clues in the right order before anyone awoke. And of course the first clue was left outside their door, in a note sighed The Easter Bunny.
I remember one year in particular that I finished this task and still nobody was awake, so I climbed the hill behind the house and stood in a carpet of California poppies and lupins as the sun rose over the hills. It made Easter suddenly relevant.
So I'm curious--do you have any family traditions that are unique to your family, any that you've carried on from your parents or started to be handed down to your children? I've been thinking about my family and we have several traditions of our own. At Christmas the tree mysteriously brings us an extra present at tea-time. At Thanksgiving we have a talent show and every family member has to perform. When the grandkids get together they have to play hide and seek in the dark with flashlights--something we started at Lake Tahoe when the oldest were three. We always have a picnic and family softball game for the twins birthday in July. And so on... little things that bond us more closely as family.
Reds? Any traditions you'd like to share?
JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: I find I have to think my way around the calendar to pin down our traditions. Thirty-plus people for dinner on Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas. Poorly hidden Easter baskets (which became a tradition after the year the dog got into a cunningly-hidden basket and ate most of the chocolate. Picking up whichever kid is at summer camp and shopping and eating at the same places in Camden. Seeing the Portland Pops play on the Fourth of July. Our yearly trip to the amusement park on Youngest's birthday in August. Old Orchard Beach on Labor Day weekend. In the last four years, its become a pleasant fall tradition to go down to Northampton for Smith College's family weekend; we'll be continuing that for three more years at Trinity in Hartford. Listening to The Ray Coniff Singers Christmas album (that's a tradition I brought from MY childhood.) No one comes down before 8am Christmas morning (that one's become much easier to enforce since the kids hit the teen years!)
Little things: everyone has his or her Monopoly tokens, and Lord help anyone who messes that up. Saying "Welcome to Maine" and "Goodbye, Maine" when we cross the Piscataqua Bridge between our state and New Hampshire. Church on Sunday, followed by me critiquing the wedding announcements in the New York Times on the drive home. Going to the movies together.
Looking back, I realize that as a chronically lazy person, I have deliberately avoided creating elaborate traditions. I think I could always see the end game - poor Rhys getting up at the crack of dawn to write clues! I'd rather sleep in.
HALLIE EPHRON: Goodness, Julia, what lovely traditions!
Rituals in our house? Not many. Does this count: My daughters used to play Punch Buggy in the car - the first one who spotted a VW yelled it out and got to punch the other one.
And we were very serious about birthday cakes. No store-bought cakes. Had to be Duncan Hines cake mix. Homemade buttercream frosting. Birthday girl chooses the flavor got to decorate it, which required a trip to Wallgreens to buy decorating candy (usually large and miniature nonpareils). This was a big deal because we rarely had candy in the house.
We also had bedtime rituals. You had to say to my daughter, "See you in the morning, I love you, good night" and get it said back to you. Exactly like that. I was enthralled when my daughter Molly funny and heartbreaking essay about it was read on "No, You Tell It" - here's the link: http://soundcloud.4m3.org/user/21268039:No,%20YOU%20Tell%20It!/tracks/103730918/Story:SeeyouinthemorningIloveyougoodnight/all-rights-reserved
HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Aww. Lovely. As kids, when the family left on a trip, the minute we turned out of the driveway, there was a race to see who could be the first one to yell: "How do you like it so far?" And when we drove under a bridge, you had to yell DUCK DOWN!
If you were sitting in a particular chair in the living room, if you said SAVE SEAT when you got up, no one else could sit there. The rule was absolute and unbreakable--and with five kids, pretty necessary. Even our parents used it. And if you didn't, and someone sat there, and you were annoyed, the response "You didn't say SAVE SEAT" would end the argument.
Also dibsing the wayback. If you said "I dibs the wayback" in the car, you got to sit in the cool seat facing the other way.
Droste chocolate oranges in Christmas stockings, definitely. Oysters Rockefeller for New Years Eve. Birthday person got to choose the entire dinner, including cake, and try to convince Mom it should be birthday WEEK. (Never worked.)
When we lost a tooth, we had a choice: "A quarter now, or a pony later." We always took the pony later.
And now? Every time Jonathan leaves, I say--"How are you going to drive?" And he says: "Carefully."
RHYS: Hank, on car trips my kids always used to shout, "I call backety-back back"--which meant the very back of a big station wagon. No seat belts in those days.
DEBORAH CROMBIE: Rhys, you are so clever! I think that should go in a Georgie book!
We're not nearly so good at our house. Maybe we need to work harder at traditions, but I'm not getting up at the crack of dawn to write rhyming clues!
We dyed eggs and hid Easter baskets (mom had to have one, too) but my daughter's grown up and there are no grandkids, so that one's in hiatus for the time being.
At Christmas, we go to my husband's family on Christmas Eve. It's a huge gathering (there are five siblings, with siblings' families,) with lots of food, and much hilarity over the Secret Santa gifts. We still do stockings on Christmas morning at our house, even though we're all too old to believe in Santa (well, except maybe me...) This means we all put things in each others stockings, but I manage to get oranges and nuts in everyone's, a childhood tradition. I do miss the hard candies I got as a child, especially the ribbon ones. Never ate them, however. Now, it's just Rick and me and our daughter and son-in-law, but on Christmas morning we have The Tree. Kayti usually gets to be Santa, handing out gifts as we sit in front of the fire. Only one person gets to open a package at time, so everyone can see what it is. Then we go to my aunt's for Christmas dinner, except for a couple of recent years when we've been snowed in, and those were lovely Christmases.
Oh, three more Christmas things. I absolutely MUST have a real tree. Rick puts up the outside lights (he has a system.) And on Christmas Eve, I read A Child Christmas in Wales before I go to sleep. Always.
LUCY BURDETTE: Rhys, you take the cake with those clues--though I would hardly say Julia is lazy. Writing books and raising kids and all those dinner parties? No way lazy...
Ours have to do with holidays too. I know a lot of adults have grown out of Christmas stockings, but not in our house. Here's my childhood stocking, knit by my aunt. I still trot it out for the season and it brings back a lot of happy memories. And it gets filled because everyone is trained:). A lot of other holidays are pared down to the food--no egg-dying or Easter baskets for example. But we did just finish a wonderful brunch with quiche, asparagus, salad, leek biscuits and the most amazing orange-almond sponge cake.
And birthdays--all about the cake. (Sorry Hallie, but never, never out of a box:).
SUSAN ELIA MACNEAL: Most of our rituals have to do with holidays — collards on New Year's Eve, going to see the cherry blossoms at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, going to Providence, RI for July 4th, watching all the Rankin-Bass holiday specials....
One of our spring rituals, which we did last night, was watch The Wizard of Oz. Remember when it was on only once a year, in the spring? In my mind the black-and-white turning to technicolor is like winter turning into spring. And Glinda's pink puffy dress's reminiscent of apple blossoms… We saw it yesterday and tried to impress on the kiddo how special it was, but he's of the age of DVDs and on-demand and really just doesn't get it….
Yes, we've seen The Wizard of Oz, and now it's officially spring!
Okay folks, let's hear about your unique/funny/silly/wonderful traditions! Long may they flourish.