Books & Magazines · Family & Friends · Personal Essays

Let’s talk tradition

Newly arrrived in Montreal, I went out one fine late-summer morning for breakfast with my sister. On our way back up St Catherine to the metro, we passed a second-hand bookstore. Of course, we had to go in and check it out. It was small but well-stocked, and in their bargain section (4 books for $15) we found some treasures: Longitude by Dava Sobel; The King in the Window by Adam Gopnik (which we promptly sent to my nephew and which he was thrilled to receive and couldn’t put down); the wickedly funny Hotel Bemelmans (stories for grown-ups, written by the author of the Madeline books); and a little book called The Seventeen Traditions by Ralph Nader (with the added bonus of the author’s signature on the title page).

When I finished reading The Seventeen Traditions, I couldn’t help thinking how much my dad would have enjoyed it—and how much I would have enjoyed discussing it with him. Mr. Nader’s stories of his childhood and of his family’s traditions resonated deeply, calling to mind my own upbringing and my own recognition, as an adult, of how important it is for each family to form a sort of “culture of the home”—based on solid principles, bolstered by mutual self-giving and sacrifice, and nourished with lots of laughter and good food. I can’t imagine a richer legacy for parents to leave their children.

The book got me thinking about my own family’s traditions. Many of them are similar to the Naders’, and some of them are all our own.

I’ve been thinking, too, that soon it will be my nephew’s and my dad’s shared birthday, and two days after that, it’ll be a year since my dad died. And it’ll be Christmas soon. All in all, a good time to be dusting off and polishing up those good old traditions and sharing them with others.

So after mulling it over for a few days, I’ve come up with seventeen traditions of my own. Here they are, in no particular order:

  1. The tradition of meals together
  2. The tradition of order
  3. The tradition of reading
  4. The tradition of learning
  5. The tradition of letter-writing
  6. The tradition of prayer
  7. The tradition of travel
  8. The tradition of good humor
  9. The tradition of quality
  10. The tradition of forgiveness
  11. The tradition of moderation
  12. The tradition of excellence
  13. The tradition of hospitality
  14. The tradition of rising to the occasion
  15. The tradition of sincerity
  16. The tradition of conversation
  17. The tradition of becoming a grown-up

I’ll be elaborating on each one, likewise in no particular order, starting with: The tradition of sincerity.

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