The father of my childhood friend was a genius. He never used words like saxicolous, I never saw his SAT scores or overheard a neighbor talk about his IQ, but I knew, even at the age of seven, that he was brilliant. Today, my opinion of him remains the same; the only thing that has changed is my reason for believing he was so smart.
My friend’s dad did the shopping for his family, but it was more than buying eggs. He had a rotation. Every time he went to the grocery store, he’d take one of his three sons. That son was his personal assistant and the official family cereal-chooser. When my friend told me he could choose any cereal (that he wasn’t limited to Cheerios, Cornflakes, and Rice Krispies) and that, when they were in the check-out lane, his dad would always lean down and encourage him to select any snack, I about lost it. Who was this man and did he teach courses on genius fathering?
A dad that let his son choose whatever cereal he wanted and candy — images of Butterfingers, Sweetarts, and Big League Chew electrified my being — had to be the next Gandhi, Mother Teresa’s Uncle, or at least the long lost brother of the Ninja Turtles. He was giving and awesome — gawesome. I knew he was the wisest of men; he got us little guys; he won over his sons (and me) with sugar cereal and gawesomeness.
Today, I still admire my friend’s dad. I look back and still conclude that he was brilliant, giving, and awesome — I won’t combine all three — but, what I realize now is that, his smarts had nothing to do with grocery stores, bubble gum, or even sugar cereal.
Starting a family and becoming a father has let me in on a secret. Because of his father, my friend had something to look forward to every month. Isn’t the magic behind traditions, holidays, birthdays, vacations, weekends, and movie releases found in the excitement that comes with looking forward? I respond with a loud, boisterous, and reassuring YES.
Some might be thinking, “big deal.” Well, I am thinking, “What a discovery!”
Want to know why last year’s birthday wasn’t nearly as exciting as your tenth birthday? I don’t know about other people, but these years, with a few exceptions where rude people remind me I’ll be turning ___ in so many months, I hardly even think about my birthday until the month before. Unlike my worry-free younger years, life distracts me until it’s basically too late. I know this isn’t the case for everyone; there are plenty of individuals who still get giddy at the thought of a birthday six months away (and I applaud them), but why?
My childhood birthday was awesome because I looked forward to it. I looked forward to much more than a day; I looked forward to the the events of the day (and I knew them well). Birthdays in my family included, but were not limited to, going to a dollar movie with all my sibs, ordering 5 Buck Pizza and buying generic grape, orange, and root beer soda. It included a cake or lemon meringue pie (for me) with candles on top, and usually some small, but ever so exciting, toy. It may not sound that great to some but it was heaven on earth to me. I loved birthdays. If my next birthday followed my childhood birthday agenda to a tee, I would be thrilled.
So what does it all mean?
The idea for this post came after Rinda and I had a great conversation about easy ways to make life wonderful. We concluded that starting and maintaining family traditions was key. Rinda’s family is pro when it comes to getting excited about traditions. The amazing thing is, their traditions are simple but make things so much more enjoyable. For example, whenever they go to the beach they always order “the best” calamari from the same dumpy old bar; when they go to Disneyland, they can’t leave without eating “the best” sour cherries and churros in the world — they get more excited about the food than the rides. Brilliant.
Rinda and I want Claire’s life to be simple but ever so exciting. How can we help make that a reality? We have challenged ourselves to start and maintain a simple family tradition for every month of the year. These traditions will be planned, marked on the calendar, and spoken of regularly. As the years go by, more traditions can join the table.
This last Christmas was incredible for many reasons. My whole family (with the exception of Christian, that jerk) was present, we had a schedule of events and we did them! Most exciting — and I promise I will post about all of this in detail — were the returning traditions: our annual Home Alone movie watching Marathon (1 and 2 back to back with Little Nero’s Pizza, throwback Pepsi, and ice cream sundaes), our Christmas Eve Twas the Night Before Christmas gift exchange, and the Christmas Eve cracker and cheese fest.
See what I mean? Simple things to look forward to = an exciting life to live.
Traditions can start today. You can call making a new, homemade Christmas ornament each year a tradition, even if Great, Great, Great, Grandfather Merle, from the Highlands of Scotland, never did it. I give the world my permission to do so.
Start traditions. Start living. Find ways to look forward to life.
What are some of your simple or not-so simple traditions? What do you look forward to? Please share in the COMMENTS!
UNFUNNY HUSBAND MOMENT: Rinda wanted records (vinyl) for Christmas. I bought her two. To trick her on Christmas day, I also bought a calendar that looks like a record when wrapped. When she was opening it, I told her to be careful, it could break; she was thinking “this is definitely a record,” she was wrong; it was a calendar jam-packed with pictures of wolves in their natural habitat.
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