When I look back on this life (it seems lately I always do), the images which present themselves most prominently all have a unique interwoven trait holding them tightly entwined. Tradition is that invisible glue with which memories are forever bound together. So strong, if temporarily broken, it strengthens our resolve to revisit what it represents upon the next appropriate occasion. Every milestone in our life has this same common thread taking ownership of it.
A recent trip to the ocean with my oldest son forced many fond memories of days gone by with him to resurface for three straight days and evenings. Before we headed out, though, it had already been arranged his younger brother would not be coming with us. Between the feeding tube, diapers, meds, erratic sleep schedule, and everything else which plays a part of any trip for us, this particular weekend was only going to be about Aryn and his dad. Free at last, so to speak.
There was roughly a two-hour ride to get to our destination, which also seemed a wonderful opportunity to discuss our plans for the multi-day adventure. This one had been marked on the calendar for some time, so building anticipation had furthered the excitement. We lined it all up right there in the car before we had even crossed the border into Maine.
Our itinerary was fairly loose in terms of timing but quite rigid concerning actionable events. Prolonged chunks in a candy shop, mini-golf, amusement park rides, fried dough, and of course sparklers, all made for the familiar excursion. The more things change…, the more they stay the same. It would not have been a trip to the ocean had any of these been omitted. What we were going to do at the beach was already a given.
I find it observationally funny how much importance we all place upon performing the same actions over time. It is almost as if we are compelled or programmed to place ourselves into robotic mode at various callings. We know what comes next without even giving it a thought. Doing so breeds contentment and fulfillment. Why have it any other way?
Looking for crabs, smelling the salt air, the excitement of riding waves, splashing for hours alongside the water’s edge, and simply reliving moments made for the best weekend ever. Nothing we did had been a new experience; we scratched, sniffed, and replicated precious images from the past, yet again. And for that, after several magical days, my heart was singing deep within my chest cavity. His was too.
Our own unique traditions add colorful enrichment to our fading black and white storyboards. It doesn’t matter which shadow you refer to; there will always be something beckoning for unfilled attention within these memories. It is that special series of familiar repetitions with which we uniquely identify and have forever taken ownership. Family rituals are just awesome; they allow for growth, reflection, and contemplation. Never allow their sparks to diminish.
More commonly, we all blow out candles, hang streamers, cut down trees, gather around the fire, don masks, embrace shamrocks, color eggs, place items under our pillows, worship weekly, and we continue to showcase acts such as these, over and over. As a society, we are so predictable that we even know exactly what the meal will entail on one fateful afternoon in November. Our lives are uniquely guided by our past actions, only to repeat them. It’s pure magic.
To be able to sit with feet in the sand while watching the waves break before me while listening to Aryn recount how many memories he had while being there; made it all worth it. The weekend surely was as much for me as it had been for him.
There were moments when I saw myself walking by excitedly on the way to the rock pools or to build sandcastles using pieces from a found broken shovel. It all came back instantly. I, too, had been taken to the same spot in the sand along the shore where I had spent summer after summer performing the same tasks because I had to. It didn’t suck hearing the voices of my mother and father whispering to me faintly in the wind as well either.
I gladly ate my only ice cream of the year with Aryn at the same ice cream stand where this all started over a dozen years ago. It was just what we did. But not before he commented, “I wish my brother were with us; he always has so much fun at the ocean.”
There is wisdom in the waves too.