My husband is a man of traditions. He loves them, craves them, looks forward to them, and likes to create them from scratch. We could be in the midst of something totally new, not even sure it’s a success yet, not even sure we’re going to live to see the other side, and he’ll call out to me over the noise of whatever it is, “Hey honey! Let’s make this a tradition!”
He can’t help himself. He loves that crap.
Me? Not so much.
It’s not that I’m not sentimental. I am. I’m the kind of sap who sobs my way through commercials and love songs and any time one of my kids says anything nice to me pretty much ever. I’ve written letters to my kids every year on their birthdays because I’d like to give them a glimpse of their young lives through my eyes. Once they’re grown, they can read them and understand again or in a new way just how much I adore them.
But the traditions – I don’t know about all that. They feel like a lot of pressure in a life that’s already pretty hectic, what with feeding and clothing and housing and wiping and keeping track of all these little humans we’ve created together.
Every once in a while, though, I try to throw my husband a bone because I do love him and all…and so a new tradition is born. Like our Holiday Hike, which wasn’t a Holiday Hike at first as much as it was me trying to burn off the chips and dip I’d inhaled the night before, or him getting the stir-crazy kids out of the house before they broke something or each other.
And it was lovely out there in the world, the trees green like life itself and dusted with white caps of freshly fallen snow, everything glittering in the sun like an elaborate holiday broach I suddenly remembered my grandmother wearing on her good coat when we went to church, eons ago.
I absolutely must capture this, I thought, falling behind them with my camera. I will so want to remember this.
I clicked away, again and again, except none of the pictures seemed to do any of it justice. My frustration grew as the show in front of me went on, the kids playing, breaking out into impromptu snowball fights and laughing so hard they fell all over each other in piles of giggles. My youngest, his hair peeking out underneath the edges of his cap, reached up to hold his dad’s hand.
A picture, I thought, again, a ticker tape refrain in my head by now. I simply must get a picture.
We walked on for maybe a mile like that, everyone ahead of me together, laughing and playing and holding each other, and me trying so hard to capture a piece of it for the record. Why? I’m not even sure.
Maybe we want to bring home pieces of these feelings so we can unwrap them later and remember, feel them again. Maybe it’s all that pressure of the everyday, all that feeding and clothing and housing and wiping and keeping track that makes us want to hold tight to the joy and the laughter and the miracle of little bodies in motion in the open air with the sun shining down, so we can sit someday later and remind ourselves that it wasn’t all business, all of the time.
Sometimes it was just beautiful.
“Where’s Mama?” a voice called out then, my youngest, quiet now because of the distance between us and because the snow muffles teeny voices.
“Where is Mama?” the rest called out, louder now as everyone turned toward me.
“I’m here,” I said, holding up the camera. “I wanted us to be able to remember.”
My husband, man of tradition, led them all back to where I stood. He took the camera from me and replaced it with my son’s little hand, his warmth a shock after the cold of the plastic.
Wouldn’t you rather remember being a part of this with us?
And all at once a snowball hit me – an icy reminder of how much I’d been missing by trying to freeze the moments. All that time, I’d been worried about creating and capturing traditions when, really, I’d been crushing myself under the lonely pressure of having to chronicle it all.
In the end, it was more fun to just live it, to throw snowballs with the best of them and hoist little ones and hold hands, trusting that the important parts would be captured in our hearts – the same way I can still remember my grandmother’s broach when the sun hits the snow just right. If that doesn’t work, we’ll try it all over again next year.
Home again, our faces red with cold and sun and life, and our hands wrapped snug around mugs of cocoa, I leaned over to my husband. “You know,” I said, chasing a stray marshmallow with my finger. “We should probably make this a tradition.”