The Power of Traditions

Jean - West Hartford, Connecticut
Entered on July 22, 2008

I believe in traditions…

Traditions are the essence of life in a summer spot, where families have been vacationing in a place of little change, where children play on the beach and engage in the same activities their parents did including pastimes of crabbing at low tide and swimming to the raft. Independence Day traditions transcend the usual parades and fireworks when a group of families read the Declaration of Independence.

Although it appears, life is unchanged; these families are not immune to the shifting world. The hectic schedules of working parents and busy kids now dictate summer routines. Small beach cottages have morphed into large homes to accommodate new generations. Despite a rapidly changing world, many return annually to be with family and share traditions, which are the mainstay of life.

Busy going through the motions of raising my family, I have never stopped to contemplate what I am molding for my children or what my parents molded for me. It was with these thoughts that the power of tradition struck me. This year, like all of those before it, we dutifully left the beach and joined a gathering of four generations. People meandered in; some still in their bathing suits and others freshly showered after a good day at the beach.

After greeting us, our host distributed the trusty index cards, slightly worn from previous years. Each contained a segment of the Declaration of Independence chronologically numbered. Sitting in circle according to card number, the reading always begins with the youngest members reading one or two words of “When in the course of human events…” A fervent four year old opened with an enthusiastic “WHEN” followed by twins, reading “in” and “the” bringing smiles to the older generations. I fondly remembered when my daughters were reading the one-word segments. They have naturally graduated to the more complicated passages, which contain the accusations against King George, such as “usurpations” and “plundered”. It continued until collectively we read the entire Declaration. Not only is this a favored family tradition but it reminds us of our history and beliefs we enjoy. The world has seen so much since these families first started their traditions. Even though our freedoms have been tested and expanded, life at the beach continues to endure because of tradition.

We subconsciously emerge into new roles in traditions as we enter new stations in life. Young children hovered over the chips and watermelon, tentative adolescents just took it in and young parents held their babies if pleased a grandmother had not scooped up a child for her lap.

Ending with a homegrown finale, each participant blew up a balloon and systematically popped it simulating the sounds of fireworks. Faces grimaced just before their pin entered their balloon. There is usually one unhappy celebrant, who frets over the balloon popping and there is always a chorus of aggravated baking dogs.

Traditions will survive a changing, even tumultuous, world because they are the threads that bind families and our nation together.