Traditions! Ringing the bell is a good start


January 1, 2010

As I was absentmindedly playing Bejeweled Blitz yesterday morning waiting for some inspiration for a blog topic, my son skyped me from his cell phone. He was on the shinkansan speeding towards Yoko’s home town. It would be a close call, but they were hoping they would get to her village in time to ring in the New Year on the temple bell. Everyone in the village takes a turn. It’s a very small village.  I don’t know if he will contact me soon to tell me about it or not. It’s supposed to bring good luck to the bell ringers. They will do it together. Isn’t that romantic? Tradition is very important to Yoko.

Unfortunately, since Nathan was seven, the two of us never really established any “traditions” in our own two person family. That’s how old he was when his father and I parted ways. It was at Christmas time when he was in first grade.

All of my “friends” at that time were married couples that I had met when we moved down here. I had no support, being an almost full time single mom (my husband traveled Monday until Friday morning),  so I started a babysitting co-op. Almost all of us were from other places. There were only a couple of women who were native to Fort Worth.  Do you know how quickly married couples disappear from the life of a now single female? It seems fairly common for the other couples to close ranks. My ex left the area immediately so the “friends” did not have to choose between the two of us. My female friends, with one exception, did not work at that time. I, of course, had to find a full time job. There was now no time during the day to see each other. They just preferred not to have to deal with an “extra”. The New Year’s Eve party we had attended for the previous three years was now a thing of the past…for me.

In a large city, separating from an ex is no different  from moving. Suddenly, without roots, you find yourself in a world of strangers. In a small town, if a woman has lived there all her life, she still has support. That is not the case when you’ve only lived in an area for six years. We did not have any friends with whom we socialized from the church we were attending. My ex was a sole salesman representative in town so there were no friends there.  I was working by myself and subbing in three different districts. Not much chance to form a close friendship in that situation.

There were no relatives within hundreds of miles to drink an egg nog with on New Years Day as our family did while I was growing up. For a few years we did watch the Rose Bowl parade together but it really didn’t interest him for long.

Traditions take a life time to develop. They are a part of life that can give someone security knowing what to expect year after year. We can love them or hate them, but they are there if we wish to participate. By the time Nathan was old enough to understand that New Year’s Eve had a meaning, he was at the stage where he wanted to spend the time with his own friends.

As far as I know, he is planning to remain in Japan for an indefinite period of time. Yoko comes from a close family in a small village. He will have time to absorb the traditions they practice. Since he never grew up with any traditions, he doesn’t have any ties that bind. Perhaps that is why he has become a world traveler. There is nothing to hold him in one place. Of course he started his first adventure before he was two, but maybe his desire to roam was enhanced with very few connections.

Why are traditions important?  Besides providing a sense of security, they help a family to bind with other family members. They help to provide a sense of continuity between generations. Neither Nathan nor I really had that. None of my grandparents were still alive by the time I was born and I was without both parents before I was twenty-three. Nathan only had one grandfather and his wife when he was born, and they lived in Indiana. We didn’t often get to see them. There was enough family up there. They chose not to come down here while we were married.

Is the sense of security real? Not really. Our lives can change forever in a heartbeat. But the stability traditions instill in us can be very beneficial. Without traditions, there is nothing reallly to look forward to as a change from the daily routine. I’m afraid the longer my son and I are apart for years at a time, the more our already fragile bonds will dissolve. Families like ours are called “entropic” families. Families like that lose their emotional ties.

I was never reallly ever able to tie Nathan and myself to each other or to the community. We are both like leaves blowing in the wind. It is my hope for him that his relationship with Yoko and her family will continue to deepen and he will at last have the sense of family he did not have an opportunity to have while he was growing up. Rushing home New Year’s Eve to ring the village bell is a good start.

 Happy New Year everybody. Here’s hoping your traditions are happy ones that create warm long lasting memories for you. They can go a long way to making you feel cozy on cold winter nights. Namaste. Attic Annie

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