Keeping tradition

By Jimmie Batchelor

Times Columnist

We did it! You and I made it into another new year, 2017.

I hope your holidays were good and played out as you had hoped. Holidays are so meaningful to each of us, being a yearly tradition that follows you from birth, throughout your life, continuing to live on for others after you are no longer a part of these earthly rituals.

We all tend to be sentimental remembering these times spent with special friends and family. As the years pass and our group becomes smaller, new faces appear around us, different players join in our normal scene. We become melancholy.

Let us remind ourselves that this is part of life. Our children and grandchildren follow in our footsteps, learning and enjoying the meaning of our holidays. They experience the wonders of tradition and love of family, making their own memories they will pass on to the next generation.

I find that each year I celebrate Christmas a bit differently than the last. I have also found it helps to invent new traditions and not try to make every celebration exactly the same. Some traditions I treasure, I simply add small new ideas, a dash of newness here and there that may not reappear next year. Some add to our festivities, such as our family inviting friends to share our joy. However, there are total bombs, as I remember the time I substituted seafood stew for the yearly spaghetti Christmas Eve dinner. That only occurred once. There shall be no repeat!

Inevitably, while decorating our home, I will happen across an item I haven’t seen in years, conjuring up memories, bringing close some loved one no longer here. Almost like finding a message in a bottle.

It does feel as if someone wants me to know they are close by. I have found items tucked away I never have seen, or don’t remember having seen. Items someone kept as a keepsake for their own personal reason. This year I was looking through greeting cards sent to my mother from long ago. They were stashed in an old album I had not revisited since her passing forty years ago. I came upon a Christmas card picturing a girl of about four and her brother of about two. I read the names of the father, mother, little girl and her brother. At first, I was just in shock. The names were of a very good friend’s family. I never met this friend until moving to Stockbridge in the late ‘70’s. Her family lived in Charlotte, N.C., most of their lives. I spent a good bit of my childhood at Ft. Bragg, N.C. In no way did either of us know our parents’ paths had crossed all those years ago. I confirmed the picture was theirs! Only one player in this scenario is still living, her mother, who could not think back that long ago and remember knowing my parents or why she would have sent my parents a Christmas greeting. (See why keeping a journal would come in handy at times?) Here is a mystery, and a good one, that we may never solve. A message nonetheless.

Who knows? Whatever you wish to believe is your choice. It may be the writer inside me, but my choice is to believe, bringing comfort at this time of year. Holidays, to me, are for making good memories for those following me and to remember the people who cared enough to make my memories happy.

As my children have grown, I see them living with traditions I passed on to them. Heaven forbid I should stray from our normal format. No more seafood stew! I wouldn’t want this to change, ever. They have all shown me they’d never want it to change either.

Jimmie retired from Henry Co. Senior Services in Stockbridge, where she managed Hidden Valley Senior Center and resided for 38 years. She uses her newfound time writing (for The Times) and enjoying life!