family traditions of summer

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.

summer traditions

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.”

kiddie pool stephanie klein

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.



  1. my mom always made our family traditions really special :)
    do you feel like you love and respect your mother more now that you are a mom yourself?

  2. Every summer my family goes for a week to this place up the Adirondacks on a lake, that’s sort of halfway to camping. There are cabins, not tents, and everyone eats their meals communally on this big porch, but there’s no electricity, so you spend the week reading, hiking, swimming, boating, tennis, horse lessons for kids, whatever. It’s kind of fantastic. There are families there that my parents have known since before me and my brother were born (they haven’t always gone every year, but sporadically)

  3. The important memories happen on the side streets of our lives. I could not agree more. Absolutely. And what amazes me is the way we can’t know, as we live them, which moments will become that for us, which will rise and become permanent, glittering parts of our memory. You know?
    And I agree about food – my memories of summer as a child are washed in the details of food, simple and celebratory (sometimes at the same time).
    Thank you for this lovely post!

  4. Love this post. A friend just forwarded it to me, and I can see now why she’s such a raving lunatic fan (no offense Jenn).

  5. I love summer traditions! Every July 4th, we go away on the “Divorced Dad’s Trip.” It is my father in law who is divorced, his best friend who is divorced, and my dad who is divorced and everyone’s kids. It’s not about going on vacation and being away somewhere beachy, it’s about the company. It’s so wonderful to spend quality time with our dads and the rest of the family. I look forward to this trip every year. Only 2.5 weeks until the next one!

  6. uhmm when is it because some weekends I’m going to be going zip lining, hiking, and camping with some friends

  7. Skin So Soft is THE repellent. :) That “Off” stuff is bad for you. You know, for all those who are ready to rough it this summer.

  8. Really must stop being so anti-social/shy and do some entertaining this summer on the patio. Thanks for the reminder :)

  9. I have been on many hikes and camping trips. My father was a Marine. If you do go, here’s what you’ll need: Knife, Water, Rations, Waterproof Matches/Flint, Blanket, First Aid Kit. Other items such as toilet paper, baby wipes, rubbing alcohol, sunglasses, BUG SPRAY, Advil, extra clothes, tent, trash bags (to keep clothes dry if it rains). It’s kinda like when you had to travel with infant twins, but it’s worth it.

  10. Surprise get aways and History Mystery vacations. We would wake the kids in the morning, you have to wear this, and get in the car in 15 minutes!! Our little outings or overnight get aways would include clues during the car ride as to where we’d end up- which made it a game and helped ward off “are we there yets”. If the dress was swimsuit under shorts, they knew it was a beach or pool outing, but had to guess where. For the History Mystery vacations, when they were elementary age, we’d do things like make them learn the 7 natural wonders, and then wonder which one we were headed to (Grand Canyon), or give them a map, teach them to learn the directions from our pre planned cheat sheet, and see if they could figure out where we’d end up and what its historical importance would be (The Alamo). Great chance to teach and learn a skill along the way. I remember one time, we were going to the Queen Mary in California, and they were so into learning to read a map, that they didn’t even see the ship until we were in the parking lot with the engine shut off!! Good times, great memories.

  11. As a kid growing up, I remember the hum of the window unit AC at my grandmother’s house, and the ticking of her fan that was used to circulate air. I remember everyone gathered on my grandparents back patio as my cousins and I would play in the grass. And sometimes, on occasion, we’d make a tent on the clothes line in my grandmothers back yard.

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