Kramer: Transfer of traditions stirs emotions
In letting go of the responsibility, I felt release, relief and regret all at the same time. For almost 50 years I’ve prepared for our family's holiday meals by cooking traditional foods and setting the table with dishes and water goblets that had belonged to my mother-in-law, and that I use for these special occasions. Company at the table has always included family and beloved friends. This year I felt too tired for these time-honored customs, and in talking with my daughter Amy about the holidays I was extremely grateful when she said, “Let me do them.” Offering to help her, I let go of my need to control, plan, buy and prepare everything. Over the phone, we divided the chores, making lists of who would do what. And it worked!But the unexpected feelings that accompanied this plan have given me much food for thought – as well as for stomach. Every family has its holidays, celebrations and traditions. Christmas, birthdays, anniversaries, Easter and Passover are only a few of the annual commemorative moments in family life. And the designation of duties to make things happen on these occasions often resides with the older generation as children focus their energies on growing up. But when that moment of transfer arrives, so do many other things. Feelings of gratitude and pride wrestle with tentacles of guilt as we reach out for and let go of the required roles. Reality is better understood on both sides. I think the mutual consent and cooperation of the adults involved gives birth to new perspectives and understandings. Moms get tired more easily as they age. Children become more willing and competent to help as they grow. Recognition and respect on both sides go along with this transfer. It felt absolutely wonderful to become my daughter's assistant as she shouldered the tasks involved. Being in the kitchen cooking together hadn't happened since I taught her how to make my secret chocolate chip cookies when she was 10. In her kitchen this time, we talked, shared ideas and passed the hours involved together with a special appreciation for being partners in making this happen. And we expressed feelings to each other that had never been voiced before – about my parents and Amy's grandparents and our memories of the traditions they had followed. Feelings of both giving and receiving made the kitchen an especially warm place as we worked to complete the meal. Mutual respect and love can add delicious flavors to a shared endeavor. As I age, I think Amy and I realize it may become necessary for other traditions to be transferred as well. When the time comes, I think we'll both be ready to continue to learn and grow together. And I think it pleases both of us to see her daughters watching what we do together. Generational transfers recycle, and their time will come.
Judy Kramer can be reached by email at [email protected] She is author of “Changing Places: A Journey with My Parents into Their Old Age.”