Family traditions are simply routines with the bonus of distilled spirits and a weird uncle. More infrequent, one hopes, than brushing your teeth, family traditions are rarely tied to necessity. By design, however simple, they’re decadent—red velvet, cream tights, and a dress coat on a Wednesday.
Though, when you’re the one stuck having to endure (or cook) another traditional family meal of flanken, you might beg to differ.* Still, I’m a fan of traditions and want to create that magical whimsy, however scheduled, for my Beer hops (yes, their last name is Beer). But summer traditions? Huh?
I guess there are families who go camping (I’d kill to do this, but Phil won’t go there. And I won’t go there alone). Real families (cough, Housewives of NJ) who spend a stretch each summer making tomato sauce from scratch, enough to last the entire year. Families with annual summer vacations in far off lands where a translation app is as essential as sunscreen. Aside from the sweeping list of activities that fill hot-as-balls days of Texass heat, aside from July 4th, and running through sprinklers, what’ve we got? No, I said aside from the simple joys of late August. What’s the fill-in for this blank: the one thing my family does every summer is ______. No, you can’t write, “sweat,” no matter how actively you might do it. Same goes for “complain.”
I’ve always believed that the really important moments happen on the side streets of our lives. The truly big moments aren’t as important as the smaller quiet ones. The events we cling to aren’t about the big holiday or fireworks. It’s about climbing into bed with your parents. It’s not about which restaurant or club in the Hampton’s. It’s about the car ride recaps, laughing until you have to pee (No, literally, pull over. Fine, give me your Venti cup), as you sit in hours of traffic back to the city. Pay attention to the sidelines; it’s where the good stuff is.
It’s why, on some level, entertaining is so important to me. Small touches and small tastes of memory. The colors, the setting, the foods served, music played. I can remember my childhood in meals. Grilled shrimp with cappellini primavera in summer. Filet mignon and lasagna come Christmas. I still know the serving utensils, the patterns on the different plates, the hand-held nut grinder for chocolate chip cookies.Napkin rings and place-mats, I swear. These are things I want so much to give, my favorite thigs. When people come to our home, even if it’s just game night and Popsicles (though ice cream sandwiches trump Fudgsicles, period), I want to give a memory and a taste for it.
It’s so much a part of what I had growing up: company. I’d fall asleep with a sheet for a blanket, a breeze through the screen windows, listening to the crickets and muffled voices of my parents’ guests. After swimming at the club, my father would light the grill, and I could smell it the way you can smell burning logs in someone else’s fireplace come winter. Lea and I would zip-line across our backyard, back and forth, holding onto the bars until our grips let out, waiting for our parents’ guests to arrive. People filling our home, drinks made, a ballgame muted. Corn on the cob holders. I want so much to make these Taco Tuesday moments of meals and meetings remembered. Because it’s what I love remembering.
*Oddly enough, a most foul tangent sprang from this thought. I’ll be plating it up tomorrow.