The Grandma Glue: Keeping Families Together for Holiday Rituals and Traditions

FamilyMy Mother always said that the matriarch in the family is the glue.   It is the job of the matriarch to keep family traditions and rituals and bring all the family together on holidays and special family celebrations.  She said family traditions and rituals are what we remember in life.   As a Holocaust survivor, she was able to share small town European life, her remembrances measured by the family holiday celebrations.   So many families of divorce today fight over days and hours when it is the traditions and rituals over a childhood that children remember, not those days and hours.  It was easier in my Mother’s matriarch time to accomplish this task.  Families usually lived in one city.   Today, our extended family lives on different continents, not just different cities.   It is when the holidays arrive –such as the spring holidays soon upon us, that this Grandma gets a pang of nostalgia for those simpler days.  My Mother was an expert at using guilt to accomplish what she wanted.  This Grandma is not so successful.  Guilt just doesn’t seem to work.

I must admit that when I was younger, I also did not have an appreciation of the importance of life passage events and family traditions and rituals.  I did not want a big wedding.  I did not understand that weddings are better to have than funerals to bring extended family together.  Similarly, I do not think our children scattered around do not appreciate how much we Grandmas crave all of our flock together—especially at holidays.  We too want to have our grandchildren remember family traditions and rituals—and us as part of them.

Of course, family feuds still exist in modern families—we cannot pick our family members and then when in-laws are involved, the dynamics get complicated.   Extended family members seem unable to come together for the sake of coming together and holding their perceived hurts and tongues does not seem worth the effort to them.  Unfortunately, it does seem to take a funeral for everyone to do so.  How this Grandma wishes we understood the fragility of life during life.

Today, the parents of our grandchildren do not have the vacation time to travel the distance to create family traditions and rituals.  Today, the parents of our grandchildren seem to want to celebrate their way, not feeling that fragility of life that it does not matter how you celebrate, just that the family is together to create family traditions and rituals.  Today, some family members do not see religion as the means to keep alive traditions and rituals for the next generation and opt out of being part of family holidays.  Today, it is this Grandma who is the one who gets on the airplane again and again.  This Grandma’s glue is made of airplane fuel.

I recently read that the new Pope Francis co-authored a book with Argentine Rabbi Abraham Skorka, called “About Heaven and Earth,” intended to speak about interfaith dialogue and to do something about it.  March 21, 2013, Andres Oppenheimer wrote an editorial about the new Pope and how his interfaith ties could boost the Vatican.  Could this book be of assistance to this Grandma in moving heaven and earth to share the importance of family togetherness at holidays?  This Grandma read carefully.  Mr. Oppenheimer says:

Explaining the reasons behind his commitment to interfaith dialogue, Bergoglio says he is a firm believer in dialogue, which “assumes that the other has something good to say.”  In another part of the book, he says that globalization should not be like a billards ball, but rather like “a polyhedron, in which all sides integrate, but in which all sides at the same time maintain their peculiarities, and enrich one another.”

I have never heard that word, polyhedron, before, but I like it, and the concept it represents.  Maybe the simpler time also was the time when one did not question what one’s elders said and directed.  Elders were given more respect.  With regard to differences, an elder who commands respect, Pope Francis says:

Everyone prays according to his tradition.  What’s the problem?

I guess I am going to plan earlier for next year’s spring holidays.  Dialog, not guilt, is going to be this Grandma’s glue making.  I am going to reach out to those reluctant or recalcitrant family members and follow Pope Francis’s efforts to build bridges and try to give everyone a little of what they need to be part of our family rituals and traditions at holidays.  It would be great if this Grandma could creatively move the heaven and earth, as does Pope Francis, to make our extended family the polyhedron.

To future totally inclusive family holidays, rituals and traditions with

Joy,

Mema

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