Adele Elliott: Traditions

December 19, 2009 8:47:00 PM



Tis the season ... we are expected to be joyous, peaceful and generous. Add whatever you wish to this list. It could be endless. 


Do not forget to carry on traditions. Every family has them. Or, perhaps we just think we do. My memories are muddled with age and confused with the TV perfection that we baby-boomers had imprinted on our psyches. 


Well, now we know that the flawless families of "Father Knows Best" and "Leave It To Beaver" were created for a very small screen. They existed in a flat world. Behind that screen was the magic of vacuum tubes and a bit of electricity. Life-sized, reality-in-the-round took characters with more substance, and maybe more intelligence, as well. 


Anyway, imperfect as our families were, we reminisce about our little rituals. My father liked to take a nap on the afternoon of Christmas Eve. I suppose he knew that he had a long night ahead of him. 


When he awoke, my brother, sister and I gathered around him to sing carols. We were dreadful singers, especially Daddy. But, it was great fun -- all three children terribly off-key, screeching loudly to "tunes" that vaguely resembled "Silent Night" or "Jingle Bells." If we had been a sitcom family, that scene would have ended on the cutting room floor. 


Most of these recollections have warmth, something that makes us smile. However, it takes little to trigger an emotional, and totally surprising, reaction. Mine came this week in the guise of seafood. 


Every few weeks Big Al Louderich drives a refrigerated truck from New Orleans to the Golden Triangle area. It is a cornucopia of gumbo, oysters, crabmeat and other wonderful delights, both raw and cooked. 


Chris and I bought a couple of pounds of beautiful, fat shrimp. It made me think of one New Orleans tradition, fried shrimp on Christmas Eve. This was considered an "easy" dinner to prepare before traipsing off to Midnight Mass. 


I suppose it didn''t help that Big Al has a white Santa-like beard and a decidedly round Santa-like tummy. All of this started a wave of tears and regret. 


I began to miss my first home. And, more than that, I really missed my family on the other side of the continent. A plate of fried shrimp just was not comfort enough. I longed for some small piece of my childhood. 


There are a million quotes about not going home again. And, except for science fiction, time only travels forward. Retro movement is still a fantasy. 


''Tis the season, I suppose, to make adult traditions. There is nothing wrong with keeping some that are old, like fried shrimp on Christmas Eve. But, the power, I believe, is in creating some that are new. I am in a new world, with a new "family" of precious friends. Time to dry my eyes. 


This year I shopped at Books-A-Million on the day when part of the profits went to the Columbus-Lowndes Humane Society. Many of their volunteers were on hand to wrap the gifts, too. I will do that next year, as well. I promise to send a few dollars to Cedar Hill Animal Sanctuary, every year. I will help fill an empty human stomach. I will be less judgmental. Unfortunately, I will probably not ever to learn to sing on key. (But, who cares?) 


I send all good Christmas wishes to the readers who write to me, and stop to meet and chat in the grocery. I hope that your traditions are filled with just the right mix of old and new. And, I also hope that you have few tears, particularly over seafood.