Don't ask me –
Hank, why do you drink?
Hank, why do you roll smoke?
Why must you live out the songs that you wrote?
If I'm down in a Honky-Tonk,
Some ol' slicks tryin’ to give me corrections,
I'll say –
“Leave me alone.
I'm singin’ all night long.
It's a family tradition.”
Lyrics from Family Tradition by Hank Williams Jr.
Every time this “good old boy” country song comes on the radio, I find myself thinking about family traditions. We all have them. At least, I think most of us do.
I remember the first time I was impressed by a family tradition. We were visiting my parents’ friends, the W’s. I was about twelve. We got to their house, in Michigan, on a Friday. Their daughter, who was my age, picked up the phone and ordered pizza. I was really impressed. In my family, only the adults ordered pizza. When I asked her if they were having pizza because we were guests, she told me that they HAD PIZZA EVERY FRIDAY NIGHT!!!
Every Friday night. I was in reverent shock and awe. To me, THAT was a blessed family tradition. A delicious, cheesy, blessed family tradition. Mmm, pizza. Mmm.
Our small family’s tradition also revolved around food. Every night, at around 8:00 p.m., Mom would dish up ice cream for each one of us. Two or three delicious scoops. Of course, after a steady diet of ice cream every night, we had a new family tradition – Wednesday night Weight Watchers.
Thanks to WW, we switched to fat-free frozen yogurt. But, we still treated ourselves every night.
In fact, two of my favorite memories involve our family’s frozen dairy tradition.
One day, when I was about ten, I was CRAVING chocolate ice cream, but when I checked the freezer, I discovered we only had Neapolitan. Yuck. I never liked strawberry ice cream, and I wasn’t too crazy about vanilla. So, I scooped out the chocolate third from the box. I knew my Dad loved Neapolitan (with the chocolate included, of course), so I put a little “Sorry, Dad” note in the empty space left over from the chocolate I’d scooped out.
Later that night, about 10:00 p.m., I heard my dad laughing hysterically in the kitchen. He came to my room, desperately trying to keep a straight face.
“What do you call this?” He said, holding up the note.
“An apology?” I answered, a little sheepishly.
He couldn’t maintain his straight face any longer and the two of cracked up. From then on, Dad would joke that he had to guard his Neapolitan “empire” from the chocolate thief. It’s one the many family times I remember with a smile – which I’m doing while I type this.
The second time happened in the middle of the night when I was around twelve or so. I was fast asleep, but some noise in the kitchen woke me up. It was early in the morning, like 1:00 or 2:00 a.m. I snuck past my parents’ bedroom where my mom was fast asleep. When I got to the kitchen, there was Dad, a gallon of ice cream in front of him, digging his spoon down into the creamy coldness of Fudge Ripple.
“What are you doing?” I whispered.
He looked up guiltily – whether it was because he was eating ice cream at 1:00 a.m. or because he’d woken me up on a school day, I’ll never know.
“Do you want some?” He offered, holding up a second spoon. The two of us ate ice cream and held a funny whispered conversation. We were trying to be quiet, but it must not have worked, since we looked up, and there was MOM!
“What do you two think you’re doing?” She demanded.
I tried Dad’s tactic. “Do you want some? I’ll get another spoon,” I said as I offered her mine.
She looked confused for a second, and then she laughed. “Next time, let me know when you’re planning to do this,” she made us promise.
So, the three of us sat up, eating ice cream, at the crack of dawn, on a school/work day, laughing and talking. I think we eventually all went back to bed at 3:00 a.m. It’s still one of my favorite childhood memories.
Another family tradition happened on Sunday nights. We’d rush home from church to have popcorn and watch Murder, She Wrote on TV. I still remember the three of us crunching away, having to turn up the volume, so we could see which one of us would be the first to figure out whodunit. Ah, good times. Good times.
Dad and I also shared a love of X-files and Star Trek: The Next Generation. We’d curl up on the couch and watch sci-fi to our hearts content.
Those are just a few of my family traditions. I know an obsession with ice cream and sci-fi are kind of weird, but that was my family – wonderfully weird.
So, do you have any family traditions? Let me know.
For now, though, I’ve got a strange craving for chocolate ice cream, and it is 1:30 a.m., so I guess you could say I’m about to carry on an ol’ family tradition.