24 February 2019

Unintentional Traditions

I've come to the realization that unintentional traditions are some of the greatest joys of my life. I have noticed this more and more as I move from one season of life to another--what I miss most about various times of life is the "unintentional traditions" that characterized different times.

When Angel worked night shift at the hospital, out of necessity, we started meeting up at my college once or twice a week to have dinner together before my evening class and before his night shift began. We'd go to Taco Bell, or a place that was literally called "Chinese Take-Out," and then we'd wander the antique shop or the estate sale store that was right across the street until the last possible moment and then he'd drop me off back at college and we'd go our separate ways for the night. I remember our tradition of meeting up for dinner with immense fondness.

Or, also during the newlywed era in Michigan, when we took long bike rides together, or went sledding with our cat a couple times each winter, or brought our dinners out to the picnic table during the summer and fall, or picked up Arby's and went to the park to picnic while studying our Chinese textbooks in the year before we moved, or when, every Sunday after church, we'd stand around in a circle chatting with my uncles and aunts and grandparents and cousins so long that the second service was starting by the time we finished our chats--those are the traditions I remember most. I was a "better blogger" back then and Angel would take photos of my clothes at least once a week and I loved planning outfits and he liked finding fun backgrounds. We did the same thing a week or two ago when we went out on a date and I think we were both pretty rusty at the task of behind in front of the camera and behind it.

I miss when we lived in China and once a week after work I'd send Angel out for a 9 kuai (hmmm, maybe $1.50) bowl of 25 beef dumplings and a box of white rice and we'd split the meal in our little cockroach-infested (not an exaggeration) apartment while watching a show.

One unintentional tradition that has followed us to every home and through every season of life is me accompanying Angel on shoe shopping expeditions. I can't even tell you how many shoe stores I've visited with that man, nor how much I've learned about athletic shoes over our eight years of marriage. It's serious business. Cyrus has not yet joined us on a shoe shopping trip. When the time comes to replace the next pair of shoes, I guess we'll see if Cyrus has the patience it takes to participate in this tradition.

None of these were intentional, planned, well-photographed traditions. I like "intentional traditions" too. I like filling stockings every year and taking anniversary photos and celebrating holidays and eating ham on Easter. I like documenting important events and keeping records.

But whenever I find myself looking back at these varied times of life, what stands out the most to me are the traditions that began very unintentionally. It just so happened that we did it once, and then twice, and then we kept on doing it regularly simply because it was fun and we liked it. Until life changed, flipped itself over, and the "unintentional traditions" that had become a part of the natural rhythm of life were gone. And I missed them.

I already know what accidental traditions I'm going to miss from this particular season of life. I'm gonna miss lying down on the living room floor as a family in the evenings, after Angel's home from work and everyone's been fed. Cyrus climbing all over us and playing with his toys, Angel and I chatting about our days and the work that went into them. Sometimes Cyrus starts ignoring us a little too much, so then I'll hug Angel and that brings Cyrus right away--if there's any cuddling happening, he has to be part of it! Sometimes I lie on the couch and read our Spanish storybooks out loud to the guys as they wrestle on the floor--stopping once in a while to ask Angel what a word means, or to complain about a grammatical construction that is difficult for this English speaker.

I'll miss coloring my little sister's hair, and brainstorming art ideas with her, and I'll miss the fact that I can't even visit my parents alone anymore, because the first words that will come out of their mouths are: "Where's Cyrus?"

These everyday, simple things, that somewhere along the way, we start to do repeatedly because they are fun and we like to do them...these are what I'll miss most when life changes once again. And while life remains the same...I'll make sure to take a moment to appreciate the unintentional traditions that have become a part of life as I know it right now.

What unintentional traditions have you loved in your lifetime?
AnneMarie said...

I love this post so much, and I love your phrase of "unintentional traditions." You make such a great point, and I agree wholeheartedly. I think in our age of social media, it can be easy to focus on intentionally created traditions that we can take perfect pictures of to share year after year. But, as I look back on my own marriage, some of my most cherished memories are the things we just did and kept doing for a season-trekking to the downtown library once a week so we could play chess with random people at "chess club" before heading back to our college campus for classes, streaming video games together each Sunday (I really want to get back into this, actually-we have done it with the kids before once, and while it was crazy with a baby and a toddler, it was still fun), staying up til the early hours of the morning playing board games with my siblings whenever we see them during Christmas break.

Carolann @ Finding Ithaka said...

I love this so much!!! In Hawaii I had so many unintentional traditions and I think that's why I miss it so much. I unintentionally started a tradition with a friend down the hall from me. Somehow it came that every morning at 6:00 am we would get together for coffee at her apartment. It became my favorite part of the entire day. In DC Nick and I have created an unintentional tradition of grocery shopping together. I used to do all of the domestic things on my own when Nick was on the boat because he had no free time. Now that he has more free time we're having so much fun making these kind of unintentional traditions together.

Elizabeth said...

I just found your blog through another blogger, and followed you on Instagram! Our family is international too, so I was interested. :) One of the fun things about parenting is seeing how kids can grab on to traditions and notice them even before you do. So you have that to look forward to! My husband's family is big on waving goodbye-we all go to the window to see the person off (we live in an apartment) and wave until they're out of sight. Downtown, my son developed the habit of running circles around a specific statue (of Gogol) when we would go to our church service. Oh, and after Easter one year my son really got into yelling "Christ is Risen!" and to this day jumps out at guests yelling it. When my son was little, we would go on stroller dates-walk around until he fell asleep, and then go have a grown-up lunch together while he napped. There's also a huge tea culture here-my husband and I always have a cup after the kids are in bed.

Rachel ¦¦ A Nesting Nomad said...

Yes! I totally love those (generally fairly low-key) traditions that just happen out of circumstance. They speak so much to certain times and places of our lives. I loved reading this post! I'm going to go away and remember all the fun traditions I've had at various times - big blow out cinema nights with my husband, our big treat. We even bought the hideously overpriced cinema snacks and all. So extravagant! The shops I'd pop into in London for a tiny treat if I'd had a terrible week at work (or an excellent one, same same). Then there was the time we got loads of vouchers for free pizza and went almost every weekend, until we almost couldn't look at the stuff by the time we'd used them up.

Mica said...

Your dinner date sounds like a wonderful tradition! It's so interesting how traditions change as life changes. We aren't really big on traditions I don't think in my family (outside of religious ones) but I do notice myself trying to make more of an effort to do things as a family now with the boys, to create new traditions for them :)

Hope that your week is off to a great start!

Away From The Blue