John and I have a routine of making big weekend breakfasts together. This Saturday morning John was making some pancakes and I was finishing up the bacon. Apparently the smell of bacon was enough to wake up the “dead to the world” type of sleep Austin prefers. With purpose Austin walked up to the stove. “Um, you know when we have people coming over? You call it ‘entertaining’ (made with actual air quotes and a slight roll of the eyes). You have music playing, the table set with china, and you are cooking something special you don’t normally make. Well…I kind of like all of that stuff, and this time of year.” Austin said with a genuine grin on his face and a twinkle in his eye that he reserves for rare blissful moments. Then very deliberately and dramatically, he gives me a proud thumbs-up symbol. Then, as if nothing happened, he just meanders away, and my heart explodes into bits of rainbow colored happiness.
I slowly turned to face John. Both of our mouths were open in shock and searching for words. “Yes, I heard it too.” John, grasping his words, assured me with a pat on the shoulder. “Success,” I fist-pumped. “He really does pay attention. He did actually say he enjoys the fuss I make over the holidays. Right, right?” I questioned. Austin might whine and roll his eyes at the tizzy that I manage to work myself into, but he finally seemed to grasp how special this time of year is. Most shocking was the appreciation that laced his voice as he said those few sentences. Moms tend to make things look easy, like they just sort of happen, and this is the first time that my oldest seemed to actually notice that it takes work. Shown appreciation, no matter how slight, makes it all worth it.
My kids are enthused about the weather becoming cooler, Christmas decorations appearing and music playing in all the stores, and the finalizations to our Thanksgiving menu. Unlike the decorations appearing in October, at least with this recent ‘Artic Blast’ we experienced, the holidays seem much closer and real. My boys are all over Christmas with the idea of presents appearing under the tree, 2 weeks off from school, and in their minds, no responsibility in general during their mini-vacation. However, Thanksgiving has always held a special place in my heart, and my boys seem to gradually be following suit. They are now grasping the realization that the holidays are like no other time of year. Thanksgiving is about family togetherness which centers around food without the pressure of a gift involved. What is not to love? With a teenager in the house, I am particularly familiar with a day centered around food, as we have a human vacuum cleaner living with us daily. As I sat down making the Thanksgiving menu I laugh at how it has changed over the years. My favorite fruit salad that my grandmother use to make for me, has now turned into “Austin’s Fruity Spectacular.” Mimi and Popsy, who were always fond of a certain canned Cranberry sauce that kind of plops out of the can in an “oh, so attractive” cranberry looking loaf, have been introduced to a homemade cranberry sauce that for the first time in years they actually admitted that they liked and have replicated. Proudly, I have now made them “cranberry sauce converts.” John has his assortment of requested pies and his favorite “special mashed potatoes,” while Jamison, the forever cautious one, asks to have his favorite macaroni and cheese set out in the Thanksgiving food rotation.
During the holidays they expect to see me polishing the silver, pressing the napkins, humming Christmas tunes, and watching all the heartwarming shows on the Hallmark channel. But with Jamison and Austin at 10 and 14-years-old certain things do change. Now as I was mixing up the ingredients for John’s favorite buttermilk pie, it is Austin donning John’s “Kiss the Cook” apron who is crimping the pie crust trying to make it look decorative. Truthfully he did a much better job than I ever do. Jamison is managing the stove like a pro stirring his boiling macaroni and getting the colander ready. We dance around the kitchen bumping hips occasionally and laugh as we have to side step one another. Every once in a while, Austin will suddenly loudly belt out the verse on the Christmas CD we are listening to as Jamison and I sign backup. Then without skipping a beat, Jamison opens the oven door to peek in on the dressing and brings back a face holding fogged up glasses. The boys and I let out some giggles as he wipes his glasses clean.
I realize that one day they will be introducing these traditions to their own children, as my parents introduced them to me. I smile and relish the fact that they will also introduce some new traditions down the road and some older traditions will fade away as the boys see fit. Their joy in family traditions reveal that they cherish family and embrace their place in it.