Traditions help make us who we are

51af975c061ae_imageBy Lisa Sugarman

When you think about it, I’ll bet every one of us has some kind of tradition we look forward to. Those quirky or unique or sentimental things we anticipate every year, or at certain points in our lives.

Things like celebrating the New Year with a Polar Plunge or having a Super Bowl commercials party or running the bulls in Pamplona—although that’s more of a reach goal for me than a tradition at this point. But not for long.

Or maybe it’s something a little more conservative, but no less odd, like watching the presidential turkey pardons on CNN. (Don’t judge, they can be incredibly emotional.) Or maybe it’s an annual tradition like making pumpkin whoopie pies for Thanksgiving or running a New Year’s Day road race wearing nothing but a red bikini and a Santa hat. (People do it.) The point is, we all have our own kooky or meaningful rituals that we get excited about. Things that we either do on our own or share with the people we love, especially our kids.

And Dave and I for sure have our own collection of traditions—special stuff we did when we were kids—that we’ve tried to weave into our life with our own girls. Everything from backyard overnights in pop tents to skiing the White Mountains every winter to running the local Thanksgiving Day road race. And whether they carry them along with them into their adult lives or not, they’re things that will always have meaning to them. They’re memories that will always be able to warm them, no matter where they are in their lives.

One of these traditions is about to make a comeback in our family, if only for one brief day. It’s a memory that I’ve carried for decades, quietly keeping my fingers crossed that my girls would someday be able to acquire their own memory of the same tradition.

Although it’s a one-off, the kind of happening that comes along once and isn’t repeated until the next generation takes their turn, it’s a tradition that’s earned a special place in my heart. It’s the one, the only, Powder Puff football game.

And if you live in Marblehead, or right next door in Swampscott or in another small town somewhere else in the US or Canada, then you know exactly what I’m talking about and the game needs zero explanation. For those of you have no idea what I’m talking about, I’m very sorry for your loss.

What I’m talking about is the annual tradition of senior girls playing one winner-take-all touch football game against their arch rivals. A game that, regardless of whether or not you recall the final score, you remember the day with such vivid color that it’s like the memory was doctored with the chrome filter from an iPhone. That’s because the hype and the energy and the unity that we all felt throughout that one football game, could very easily match the hype of any guy’s annual Thanksgiving Day game.

See, it was the one day when it didn’t matter what clique you were in or who your friends were or what other sport you played because party lines were blurred to such a beautiful degree that all anyone saw that day was their football sister running and throwing and catching beside them. Everyone had the same goal of steamrolling the other team and doing as many end-zone dances as possible in forty minutes.

It was a day when the only thing you brought onto the field was your camaraderie. Nothing else.

And now that my senior daughter is only a week away from playing out her own game, I’ve gotta say that imagining that tradition coming full circle puts a lump in my throat the size of, well, a football. And as if the lump wasn’t big enough, imagine how much bigger it got after she asked me what my jersey number was so that she could get the same number and carry on the tradition? Yes, I bawled. It was unavoidable.

Suffice it to say, she ended up getting a different number. Good-old fifty was already taken. But that’s okay. All things being equal, I’m actually happier that she’ll run onto the field with her own number—living her version of the tradition. All that really matters to me is that she thought enough of the experience and of our relationship to even consider wearing my number at all. Proof of the raw power of traditions.

So the bottom line to all this is that whatever your traditions are, do whatever sort of work you have to do to preserve them, because at the end of the day, having them allows us to become a special part of something much larger than ourselves. And that right there is a whole lot of something.

Lisa Sugarman lives in Marblehead, Massachusetts. Read and discuss all her columns at facebook.com/ItIsWhatItIsColumn. She is also the author of LIFE: It Is What It Is available on Amazon.com.

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