Currently, we have a backyard filled with building materials. They're covered in rain-tarps waiting to be put to use. We have doors, windows, bricks, redwood boards, concrete screen blocks, concrete chunks, a custom-welded steel gate frame, industrial trusses...you name it, it's there.
After 5 1/2 years of constant work on the house, the addition of a baby and a new time-consuming/soul-sucking schedule, we're slowing down. Those materials will find a way to draw us back soon enough but for right now, watering the garden is all of the work we need.
While down in LA to visit family and celebrate the New Year, I had a conversation with my Grammy about what tradition and ritual means to me. My grandmother does not ask these questions lightly, she's an MFCC by training and a professional discusser by birth. When she asks a question, you had better have an answer.
She and my Papa were raised as Orthodox Jews to immigrant parents on the southside of Chicago. It must have been quite a shock to her sense of tradition when they moved out to California during the war, away from both of their families, only to start their own. They did not raise their children as Orthodox and they watched as each generation became more mixed. First came the addition of Catholics, then Mexicans, Roosevelts and finally Germans. I can't imagine that in her wildest dreams, my Grandmother (now 92!) could have foreseen that she would one day be a great-grandmother to a German-American-Jewish little girl (with blonde hair and blue eyes!).
Going back to the question of tradition...she asked me what was important to me about the holiday and if I feel any sense of connection. I think it's hard for her to grasp that I do feel very connected to my Jewish heritage, despite my mixed-but-not-religious upbringing. I told her that for me, it's about being with family and reliving all of the traditions (bagels and lox on Sundays!) that we've created together.
|Roosevelt tradition of burning the meat|
My family has a sort of chaotic irreverence when it comes to observing tradition, but we've always managed to gather the majority of our group to stumble through the blessings, tear the Challah and dip the apples. In the end, it doesn't matter that we never celebrate on the right evening or that we sometimes forget a proper discussion of the meaning of the event. It's the zhum-zhum (my Papa's word for chaos) that feels like home to me.
So now in my little family, away from my big family, I'm trying to figure out an easy tradition that we can call our own. Dinners on Fridays, a sort of modern-day non-Shabbat for our non-religious and mixed home, seems like a feasible start. Tonight we'll sit together, for the first-time in a week, and break bread. It's not much but it feels important.
And so I ask, what traditions have you created for your families that work in the zhum-zhum of everyday life?