This past Christmas something magical happened. No, not like when I was six when my teenage brother Abbey, who I shared a room with, convinced me that Santa was flying off in his sleigh high into the early morning sky. Now that was magical. Several years later I figured out that the sleigh I thought I saw was probably the reflection off of a high-flying jet airplane soaring away to some far off land at 25,000 feet. To a drowsy-eyed young boy eager to believe in all of Christmas wonderment, that most certainly was a sleigh and Santa and his reindeer were most apparent, very real and highly magical. In fact, the magic has never worn off and it is still one of my most treasured moments.
My brother Abbey passed away from cancer in 1998, but his spirit, through countless magical moments and several traditions, lives on. For example, Abbey had a tradition of giving away toys to the children in the neighborhood – and he always gave me the best toys. Somehow he always knew exactly what would be special. Or maybe they were so special because they came from him. Now that I’m an adult old enough to have lived through several personal recessions and I have a daughter who is almost, almost, old enough to have children of her own, I realize that he wasn’t just helping the kids, he was at times also helping the parents who couldn’t afford to buy their children toys. “Toys from Abbey” was a great tradition that my brother started and this year, my vow is to bring that tradition back in his honor by quietly helping families who will get a lot of magic out of a simple toy given with love.
The magical thing that happened this past Christmas was all about bringing back tradition. I read a list of things that a man should do to honor his wife and family, to let them know they are loved and that they are special. One of those things was the establishment and protection of traditions. I’ve given that article a lot of thought lately and one of my goals in 2010 is to strengthen traditions.
My wife and I have our own secret handshake. Ironically, it ends with us saying something silly that my brother used to say. Tradition.
For decades, my mom made my brother his favorite cream pie on his birthday and, of course, I loved it so much that over time she began to make two pies -- one for us and one for him. When he passed away, she continued that tradition on my birthday until she finally gave up the secret recipe to my wife, who continued carrying the torch. Tradition.
I have a friend who, years ago, asked me to go along with him to the airport to exchange money. So now, when we haven’t talked for awhile, one of us will pick up the phone, call the other, and say “Hey, what are you doing? Wanna go to the airport to exchange some money?” We laugh heartily, and catch up on life. Silly tradition.
My wife and I used to make a Christmas brunch that consisted of fresh fruit salad, muffins and my special touch, Huevos Rancheros. The brunch is simply good food washed down with fresh coffee, juice and mimosas for those who really wanted to get into the spirit of things. I stopped doing my Christmas brunch a couple of years ago though. We had moved to California, which also meant we moved away from beloved family and friends that had become fixtures at our east coast brunch. After Jane went through breast cancer and coupled with us not being around the same people, we just let that tradition slip away. It was so much preparation. We weren’t in the mood. Whatever the reasons, we didn’t do it. Every year around Christmas time though, we would get calls from friends and they would say, “I sure do miss your Christmas brunch!” Tradition.
Well, after five years of being in California, Jane and I moved back to the East Coast. It was supposed to be a short visit, that turned into a longer visit, that became my own personal Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins moment. Turns out, it wasn’t so much the food they missed, it was more about the tradition of friends and family sharing a special time together. So this Christmas, after much prodding from our friend William, we brought back the brunch. This time I cooked my specialty at his house and everyone pitched in on the rest. It was a big hit, everyone had a great time, we reminisced about old times, created some new memories and shared the love that makes traditions special. And the Huevos Rancheros, they tasted better than ever.
© 2009 A.J. Ali
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