I had a great conversation with my niece the other day. We were talking about traditions. Every Christmas she and her brother always go to see the Nutcracker because my late sister, their mother, always took them. I think that’s wonderful.
Personal traditions are very important and give life extra meaning. She asked me about the traditions I have. Our family did various Danish traditions, especially around Christmas, because my mother’s side of the family was Danish. So here I am, never having even stepped foot in Denmark, keeping those traditions alive.
We also have a tradition in our family when we go to the movies. We say, “Previews are my favorite part.” I don’t even know how or why that one started, and yet I always do it.
When we take long trips, when we reach our destination, we say, “Smell the salt?” even when we’re going nowhere near the ocean. This is because when my mother was a child living in Connecticut, piling into their Model A Ford and taking the long slow trip on country roads to go to Long Island Sound was a very big outing for that farming family, and you could, indeed, smell the salt when you got close. It’s now become our way of expressing excitement when we are near our journey’s end.
So I asked my niece if she shakes the milk before pouring it. She said that she did, but had no idea why. I told her that her great grandfather used to have a dairy farm, so the family’s milk was unpasteurized. That meant the cream would often float to the top, so they’d shake it before pouring. Since my mother shook it, my sisters and I shook our pasteurized milk, just out of habit. And now my niece shakes it without even knowing why. I’m sure that her children will shake the milk, too, long after I’m gone. It’s just who we are.
I don’t know why, but that makes me smile.