Saturday, December 5, 2009

My Holiday Epiphany (Traditions and Hard Work)

I am a strictly practical person (practically to a fault, he he!). I don't like to decorate, because it always feels like so much work for what you get out of it. I don't use serving platters, because the pans the food was cooked in seem just as good to me. And I don't send Christmas cards, because I am either going to see you at Christmas, or I will never see you again, and in either case, I just can't summon the energy necessary to send the card. But I was given an insight into the meaning of traditions as I was making homemade pierogi for Thanksgiving.

I come from a Polish-American family. My great grandparents arrived in this great nation around the turn of the 20th century. I grew up calling my grandparents Dzia Dzia (grandpa) and Busia (grandma) and hearing them speak Polish. I loved them dearly, and I have done family history research on their families in Poland. One of the few traditions that have stuck is the making of homemade pierogi. It takes most of the day to make, and is physically taxing, but the result is scrumptious. My husband, as my practical other half, is quite puzzled by the tradition, as he just cannot see how they are any better than a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

As I was making the pierogi, I was well aware of the time commitment, which this year was lengthened by the presenced of Cricket, our 21-month old. (My husband tried to keep him occupied, but Cricket just could not stand the thought of leaving mom alone for the length of time needed.) But I realized that although it was going to take up most of my day, and my back was going to hurt by the end of it, I did not feel like I was working. I just thought of how grateful my mother was when I was old enough to help make them. I thought about how she learned from her father how to make the pierogi, because her mother was sickly her whole life and could not do it. I remembered how all of us--aunts, uncles, cousins--always were together for the holidays when I was a child. There was so much of nostalgia tied up in this activity that all those good feelings cancelled out any dread of the work to be done.

I knew that traditions could bind families together through the generations, which is why I have tried to keep them alive. But in that moment, I learned something else, too. The difficulty of hard work is removed when good feelings are associated with it. When I harp on Grasshopper to separate the laundry, it is hard work and takes forever. But when I jump in, and we do it together, it is pleasant for her. I recently made this change, and now she looks forward to doing laundry together. She has even started to beg me to let her help with other things. So by giving her an extra ten minutes of my time, I am ending up with a child who loves to help. And I am not really sacrificing ten minutes, because I probably spent that much time getting her to do her job in the first place. It is my desire that when she is grown, doing laundry will not be the chore for her that it is for me, because I hope that doing it will remind her of sweet and pleasant times working together.


  1. Hello Tracy,

    I am enjoying your blog. Traditions are on my mind as well right now--I had hoped to start some new family traditions this Christmas season, and was disappointed that morning sickness seemed to be sapping all my energy! I'm finally starting to feel better, and look forward to the rest of the Christmas season!
    By the way, I saw your comments on TAGMAX and came by to visit because the name of your blog suggested you might also be LDS :-)

  2. Paula,

    Thanks so much for stopping by my blog. I am glad that you are feeling better and hope that you will have a great Christmas!

    I am glad you were able to get the LDS reference in my blog address. It is one of the reasons that chose it. ;-)

  3. I happened upon your blog for the same reason as Paula. Which law school did you go to? (I'm a BYU law grad.)

  4. CT, I went to Loyola University-Chicago. Are you working? Homeschooling? Both?


Latter-day Homeschooling