Friday, November 08, 2013
Tevye And Scrooge Learned The Hard Way. Don't Make The Same Mistake
Pressure Busting Tip #8
When my father's parents came to the United States, my grandmother was anxious to leave the Old World behind and become completely American. She happily adopted an Americanized version of her last name, the fashions of the day, and even went so far as to insist upon only English, not Croatian, being spoken in the house. As a result very few customs and traditions of our family's Christmas hearkened back to my father's European family's roots. One did, however, and that was growing wheat at Christmas. My dad would go to Broadway Feed Store downtown and get a small bag of wheat seeds which my mom would start at Thanksgiving, shallowly planted in a decorative container of potting soil and placed in a sunny kitchen window. After it grew in nice and thick and green, she'd keep it trimmed neatly at a height of about five or six inches. On Christmas Eve she'd put a red or white taper in the middle of it and tie a red ribbon around the blades of wheat. Lighted, it was placed in the middle of the kitchen table amid the huge platters and bowls of food. Aunt Martha, Aunt June, Uncle Paul, Aunt Rose--all the Croatians or Croatians by marriage--always nodded approvingly. "Ah, Pat! The wheat! You remembered!"
About thirty-five years ago, Broadway Feed stopped carrying wheat. Everyone did. My dad had to read labels and see which animal feed or birdseed contained whole, not cracked, wheat. He brought home several pounds, and we kids sat at the kitchen table and picked out enough wheat to plant for Christmas. It was fun--sitting there, laughing, making fun of what we were doing, having contests, and goofing around. Then we all grew up, moved away, and my mother had to do it by herself. The big wheat plant became little individual plants for each household, carried lovingly by my mother to each of us. We lit the candles and put them on our tables. We trimmed the lengths and remembered, especially after my dad passed away more than ten years ago.
Now, my mom has arthritis, and nerve damage has left her fingers numb. It is a Herculean struggle for her to pick up a nickel, let alone a grain of wheat. This tradition may have ended. One of us may pick it back up. I don't know. But the tradition of the wheat makes me think of a piece of advice to pass on to you.
Pressure Busting Tip #8: Don't invest too much meaning and importance in traditions. Of course the tradition of the wheat is very sentimental and important to me and my family; moreso since the death of my father. And as I become closer and closer to my mother, I know that her inability to sort seeds and glean the wheat represents her aging and progressive frailty. So sometimes, traditions need to be put to rest. Maybe they simply represent sadness now; maybe they are too time-consuming; maybe they're just pointless and don't make sense to your celebration. Feel free to put them to rest, for whatever reason, and make new ones.