Tuesday, February 14, 2012

How to Stop a Tradition

This is a story about tradition. As parents know, traditions are capricious characters. Try to build a tradition and you will fail (New pajamas for Christmas? Ha.) but do something on a whim and no matter how big the pain in the rear this something turns out to be, it will become a permanent part of your life ("But we allllllways dye our own Easter eggs!").

My father's mother was a tiny little lady. She was never tall, and by the time she was a grandmother osteoporosis and years of hard work had shrunk her down to kid-height. (To this day I vividly remember Much Older Sister, on a dare, creeping up behind Grandma and picking her up off her feet with a smug "See? I can lift her." Fortunately, Grandma laughed; for a moment I was sure I was about to become the oldest sister.)

Anyway, Grandma was the original MomQueenBee. She raised four sons to productive adulthood and still pretty much ruled the hive when she died at age 98.

One of her traditions was making Valentine's Day cookies for her sons. Every year on Feb. 14 my dad walk would in the door with a bag of heart-shaped sugar cookies, each topped with some kind of magical pink frosting that formed a rock-hard surface as it cooled. He doled out the cookies to us kids, and because they were never made any other time of the year, we ate them with almost sacramental reverence.

As her grandchildren got older and started leaving home, Grandma expanded her recipient list. Not only did her four sons get bags of cookies, Grandma mailed the delicacies to each of her offspring-once-removed who had left the nest.

It wasn't until half a dozen of us were out on her own that Grandma realized this had been a huge mistake. With four sons, six next-generation households, and eight more grandchildren waiting to fly their respective coops, let's see, the math would be 4 sons + six grandkids x four dozen cookies = starting Valentine's baking as soon as the Christmas lights were unplugged.

So the next year everyone received their customary bags of heart-shaped cookies with one slight change: Tucked into each bag was a recipe card wrapped in plastic. Grandma was passing her sugar cookie recipe on to us, dusting the flour off her hands, and hanging up her apron.

And that, my friends, is the way you stop a tradition, guilt-free.

I should have handed my Boys packets of dye when they were preschoolers and walked away from the eggs.


  1. Wow . . . you have some great advice couched in this fun story! :)

  2. Your Grandmas was a very clever lady! Great advice!!!!