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The Value of Tradition


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I remember my childhood Fourth of Julys. My parents, brother and I always made home-cranked ice cream on our back porch, then often would go view fireworks at the local park, from our rooftop or from our backyard as we sat in flimsy chairs in the heat of the night. They were magical moments. We’d have fresh strawberries, hot fudge, caramel and maybe even bananas. The Phoenix skies turned dark and the crickets would chirp and the world was perfect.

In Alaska, as a young adult growing to middle-age, things changed. My family tradition, sadly, varied from year-to-year – though the fondest memories were setting off fireworks with my children – Sarah and Jennifer – and neighbors – Peg and Barry – and their children – Sylvia and Zen – who grew older with us, years passing like seasons – preschool, gradeschool, junior high and high school. My neighbors have since moved, lost in the realm of forgotten letters.

Sometimes the kids and I would stay up until midnight and watch fireworks set off at the nearby Lions Park in Eagle River. Sometimes we would sleep, our dog waking us with barks as midnight neared. Sometimes we would go to the celebration, and pig out on food while listening to the bands. But nothing was tradition.

Thinking back to my childhood and that of my children, I think I did a disservice to my family. We had no Fourth of July tradition that they can hang on to like I do mine. Our Christmas tradition was dinner and a movie.  And our Thanksgiving tradition much of the same.

How I wish I would have made more effort.

I got busy with life, busy with being a single mom, school, work, etc. It’s a darn shame.

I have a grandson due this month. I hope my daughter, Sarah, and my son-in-law, Jon, form traditions their child (Kaleb) will remember. I wish I could be a part of their traditions, but they live far away. I hope my other daughter, Jenny, and my son-in-law, Matt, also form traditions, even though their children are canine.

I hope readers of this column see where I failed and begin new lives with their kids, new traditions, or keep the old ones. Don’t let life pass you by. Don’t be too busy. Don’t stop the memories from forming or you may be too late and regret. Regret. Regret.

What a sad word.

Happy Fourth of July. Be safe. Be happy.

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