My granddaughter is about to experience two family traditions through her four-month-old senses, and this both delights and reassures me.
Winnie will be in the arms of her parents, aunt, or grandparents when the menorah is lit and Chanukah begins. The Chanukah story can wait for a few years, but the candle glow, the singing of prayers, and the hugging will make an impression on her. We will repeat this ritual for all the Chanukah nights she spends with us. She will receive a little gift each night, taking in the crunchy sounds of the tissue paper (funny how I wrap presents differently as a grandparent) and bright colors of the ribbons and bows.
As her family gathers once more for a full day of Thanksgiving, her senses will once again be on alert. The smell of roasting turkey, Poppi’s stuffing, and fireplace embers will mingle with the sounds of laughter, conversation, guitar strings, and her name being said over and over again. Will she come down on one side of the apple cider versus dry brine debate? Probably not, but she will feel the words and the voices as she is held, and she will learn the traditions of her family, who gathered from Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, and New Jersey to enjoy the pleasure of her company … and a terrific meal.
And if we continue to gather and share traditions when we can, and if we include Winnie in our conversations and celebrations, our family will continue to be strong and hearty in the face of anything that comes our way.