Day 23,718: The Gift of Holiday Traditions and Candlesticks.
My mother was a creature of habit, but her habits were all coping mechanisms for a less than easy life. Every day she took at nap at 1PM. She took off her dress and in the summer cooled off by laying down in her full slip for a full hour of down time. She was not to be disturbed, and rarely was.
Every Friday, she went to the beauty parlor. There she had a full two hours of hair care time. She walked the three blocks from our house to the parlor and sat for some pampering and down time. Sometimes I got to go with her, but rarely. It was her time and little girls didn’t get as much pampering in those days except for an occasional as needed hair cut.
Those were her only down times in a long week of work and little play. We lived above our store. The day started for my dad at 4AM and for my Mom likely at 6. All I knew was that by the time I woke up everyone was dressed and already had started the day. The store was open 7 days a week but we closed at 1PM on Sundays, in time for my mother’s nap.
I look back and admire how my mother knew about self-care long before the self-help term was coined. She knew that without scheduled breaks she would break. She couldn’t afford to break. There was a family to be fed, a store to be opened, and bills to be sent out so money would come in. She was the family cook, bookkeeper, bottle washer, and business partner. She also added silliness to each day as needed.
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I just finished a lovely, holiday weekend with my own daughters. As always it was a special time. Maybe that’s why my own mother is now coming to mind. Everything was more difficult for my mother including holidays. The food laws were kept stricter, the holiday plates harder to pull out, and the family gatherings larger. Aunts would come in to help with the cooking, and we got dressed up to come to the holiday table.
In this time and age, my kids come to the table in jeans. The holiday plates come out, but they are easier to reach. Cooking is limited to just those courses we’ll eat with some pre-prepared items. It’s just our nuclear group, so it’s less fuss and muss altogether. We all miss the larger family gatherings, but the small, intimate ones are special as well. Somehow in their smaller, quieter spaces, I can see my mother more clearly keeping us company from her silver candlesticks to my commitment to fancier holiday plates and real cloth napkins.
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This year, due to schedules, our holiday was extra small and feminist with one night completely dedicated to just my daughters and I around the table. Nevertheless, we set out the holiday dishes and I polished my mother’s silver candlesticks as I do every year for this holiday. We ate, drank and were merry. We even got silly.
Half way through an abridged service, my oldest daughter renamed it a Sed-her instead of Seder. We giggled and I looked the candlesticks. They seemed to really shine this year.
In retrospect, I think there were more women at the table than I first thought. I’m not sure if the prophet Elijah ever came to visit as part of tradition, but I’m sure my mother did. I have no doubt she heard the three of us celebrating and wasn’t going to miss a family female celebration with her granddaughters. She would have loved it too much.
Daily Focus on Gun Sanity: Mass shooters for unknown reasons are predominantly male. Researchers have noticed the pattern, but not yet uncovered a common reason for the gender bias. It is not mental illness. A2/17/18 article in the NYT was entitled: Mass Shooters Are All Different. Except for One Thing: Most Are Men. A similar, but different article in Harper’s Bazaar questions if the pattern is due to a culture of toxic masculinity. Perhaps in all holidays and family gathering going forward, we should find ways to celebrate the stories of women and help boys and men not feel the heavy burden of needing to be famous or heroes while inspiring girls at the same time to find their leadership voices and courage.