Traditions: A Weaving of Love and Remembrance
Years ago, I had a beautiful friend named Linda, who was the exact same age as my mother. Their birthdays were July 13 and 14th, respectively. Linda was more than a friend. She was my Al-Anon sponsor, which made her privy to all my deepest, darkest secrets. But she was more than an Al-Anon sponsor, for me, she was like a second mother. When my first child was born, I asked Linda to be his godmother and she officially became family.
When I was navigating the emotional shifts that motherhood brought, Linda was the person I turned to. Of course I loved, and still love, my husband, but there’s something about sharing your life with woman, one who understands the challenges of motherhood and worthiness. She was present, listened to me, and was generous with her time. She encouraged me to take care of myself within the winds of chaos. She was the lighthouse who guided me home—again and again. In those early days, I struggled with the holiday traditions I grew up with. Traditions like Santa Claus and the tooth fairy. When I talked with her about them, Linda would wisely say, “Traditions make memories that last a lifetime.” I watched her, year after year, build upon her traditions to create Christmas magic for her children, so they would remember. Not necessarily her, but the love that she gave; the love that poured out from her heart to her children and family. It didn’t matter what form the traditions took; it was her love woven into them that made them special.
There was a woman named Bridie, who came to our Saturday morning meeting. She told a story of an experience prior to Al-anon, when she made soup for her husband using his mother’s recipe. She followed it to the letter, making sure it was exactly the same. She admitted to feeling resentful as she always thought her husband preferred his mother’s cooking to hers. After a couple of bites, she anxiously asked him, “Is it as good as your mother’s?” He responded, “It’s good but, when my mother made hers, I could taste the love she folded into it. With yours, I taste the hate.”
I took Bridie’s story as a cautionary tale. Over the years, we have tried on many traditions, particularly ones for Christmas. Some we kept, while others we let fall away. From gingerbread houses made from graham crackers and sticky, glue-like frosting, which never seemed to hold the amount of hard candy my children piled onto their roofs, to reindeer food sprinkled like confetti in the front yard. As they got older, each year I’d ask them “How do we want to celebrate Christmas this year?” All four sons would say the same thing, to watch the movie Elf and open one gift on Christmas Eve. The tradition of the one gift was taken from my childhood and brings me joy as I remember… It’s the little seeds planted along the way that make the whole garden grow. This was something Linda knew, and a gift she gave to me.
Linda passed away just after the stroke of midnight on December 25th, 2004. Over the years I have kept in touch with her children and have watched them grow to have babies of their own. I’ve seen them build new memories out of old traditions and watched the love of their mother flow into the next generation. As I started my family, Linda gifted me a box of children’s books with the understanding that when my children grew out of them, I would return them for her grandchildren. Linda passed away before her grandchildren were born, but true to my word, I contacted her daughter and gave her the box of books. When she opened the box, she discovered nearly all of them were Christmas books. To her, this was a definite sign from her mother.
Traditions are the continuous threads that bind us to one other, no matter time or space, we remain connected by the weavings of our hearts—the weavings of love.