Last night, I read a book that included a section about the importance of family rites and rituals. The author asked the question “why do we need rites and rituals?” and answered it with the following: “Because we fall into forgetfulness. The speed Demon captures our souls. We are too busy…. The demands of modern life are so many that we easily become distracted and neglect to pause and consider what is really important.”
When I read this passage last night, I immediately thought about some of the past rituals that I share with my family. My dad, stepmom, brother and sister and I used to take summer vacations to areas where we could hike, find rocks, swim and camp. It was an outdoor adventure and not surprisingly, we dubbed ourselves “The Adventure Team.” I look back on those trips with such fond memories (even though for a few of my teenage years, I remember dreading the thought of leaving my friends and the city to go to the lonesome woods!) and an appreciation for Dad and Meg’s persistence in making such vacations happen. A high appreciation now that I have kids and know the effort and time necessary to prepare for such events and the lack of “leisure” that can often occur on such vacations!
Today, Maria, Mario, Jon, and I woke up to a balmy 32 degrees outside and the sight of a cardinal and robin perched in a bare magnolia tree in the back yard. We looked out the back door at the two birds debating which one was a male and female; the babies they may have in the Spring; and the magnificent color of red the cardinal wore against the ashen tree. After the birds flew away, we headed back into the living room, and decided that it was warm enough to take a stroller ride to the donut shop. It has been a while since we did this on a Sunday morning. The kids bundled up with their nighties under their clothes, and we jumped in the stroller for a wintry, snowy ride to Tim Horton’s.
During the ride, Maria noticed how beautiful the morning was with the sun shining (the first time in days!) and the snow glistening. Mario noticed the huge nests that were still present in the bare trees. Ahh, it is these mornings that I breathe in my children and my life and everything beams around me….
Once at Tim Horton’s, we claimed our regular seats near the window and ate our donuts and bagel. We talked about Mama Ionno’s house and what they would play there when they went for dinner. We talked about Daisies and how many cookies Maria has sold to family. We talked about summer and how great it will be to stroll to the donut shop in a t-shirt and shorts! After the donuts, Maria begged to go to the river to find rocks. I was not sure Mario would agree because he gets so cold even wrapped up in three layers but he ended up being game. It was an adventure getting there since the bike path was still covered in snow. I got my arm workout in for the week!
Maria found her stash of cool rocks, as always. The girl has an eye for unique rocks. She found one with fossils and another shiny onyx one. Mario threw small, medium and large rocks into the water listening for the different sounds they produced upon impact. We found an “iceberg” jutting off the edge of the bank and took turns throwing rocks on it and watching the ice break off and float down the river. I told them that if anyone ever told them that they were not strong, they could tell them that they destroyed an iceberg! They liked that.
We headed back to the house about a half hour later. I trudged back through the snow along the path and took a deep sigh upon seeing the road. We headed up Grandview Avenue taking in the immense sunlight and “warm” temperatures. While I pushed the kids up the hill, I thought about family rituals and it dawned on me that going to the river is our family ritual. Spending the morning at the river engaging in the simple acts of gathering rocks and making huge splashes in the water. It is strange to think about creating new rituals for my children; my focus in the past has always been on retaining the rituals from my childhood – Christmas dinners at Grandmas’ houses; Easter egg hunts at Grandma’s house; birthday parties with big sheet cakes.
But now I found myself creating a new ritual with Maria and Mario that, although right in line with the activites of my childhood summer vacations. was different and special to us. And best of all, the trips allowed all of us to “pause and consider what is really important.”