Q: Our family did something new for Thanksgiving; we helped serve food at a community meal. It was such a good experience for our children that I wanted to share my feelings about it with others. I usually clean house and serve a huge meal that is really way too much food. But this year we came home from that community event feeling thankful for what we have, even though it's less than usual. In the evening we played family games. I had forgotten that spending time together as a family and doing something simple is what counts! — L.C.
A: Thanks for sharing! Yes, how easily we forget what really matters. This past week I have been hosting an Interlochen student who could not go home to Uzbekistan for the holiday. She was thrilled to just be able to be in a regular home to help decorate the house, make cookies and make Christmas presents for her teachers.
One night our daughter and her boyfriend came over while we were decorating our tree. I was amazed at their patience, ingenuity and concentration as they used fishing line and physics to figure out how to hang three antique bird ornaments from my dining area lamp. (It was our Interlochen student's idea.) As we took out other ornaments and decorations, the young people were reminiscing about when they were little, and how they made "cookie dough" tree ornaments and other ornaments we still put on the tree.
During the evening we found a worn little box of tarnished brass angel chimes that were part of our family tradition years ago. Imagine three of today's smart, sophisticated "e-world" young people sitting together at a table, figuring out how to put the chimes together and find candles to light and make the angels spin to ring the chimes. I had forgotten how important that tiny ornament used to be to my children.
And of course it wasn't really the ornament that was important; what was important was the memory of past experiences that it represented. It meant time spent together doing something simple, it meant the joy of anticipation as we made gifts for others, it meant music and laughter and the smell of cookies in the oven while we trimmed the tree.
Your letter above reminds me that we need to cherish the old family traditions but continue to create new ones. On Thanksgiving Day we were invited to go bowling at noon before the late afternoon dinner. Bowling! What an unusual idea. Why not? Our Interlochen student, a talented violinist, had never gone bowling. We watched her progress from going up to the line and dropping the ball on the floor to striding forward more confidently and then making her first "strike." I will never forget the joy on her face as she screamed and laughed and jumped up and down. It was special. And in the end folks, all that matters are those special moments we share.
Evelyn Petersen is an award-winning parenting columnist and early childhood educator and author who lives in Traverse City; see her website at askevelyn.com. For more columns from Evelyn Petersen, visit record-eagle.com/askevelyn.