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When Traditions Change

For years, since #1 was a baby, we celebrated many holidays with our very close friends and god parents to four out of five children. We were very close, and to my kids, they were our family. Her dad was called Grandpa Mike and her mom was called Grandma Hilda. My kids called her and her husband "Aunt" and "Uncle" and all holidays included them. Birthdays,  Chanukah,  Passover and Rosh Hashanah  we went over to their house to celebrate. They were our family. My kids knew them better than most of our blood relations and they thought Auntie Norlyn and I were sisters with the same birthday, and somehow I had two moms.

And then we moved.

We moved to Baltimore in August 2010 and we were heartbroken about losing our local family. We decided that we didn't want the distance to take away from what we had established, so we made the effort the first year to keep our traditions in tact. 

That was a little harder than we thought. 

When I told the kids we were going back to NJ to visit, the kids seemed excited except for #1 who was distraught; "You mean we're moving back to New Jersey to live with the people in our old house?" He couldn't grasp the idea that we could go back and visit which didn't mean we were moving again. We decided that the only way we could help him transition to Maryland properly was to show him that our new house was our permanent home. We told him, "in the morning you'll wake up in your bed and in the night, you'll go to sleep in your bed. No matter where we go during the day, you'll always go to sleep in your bed."We hoped that was enough and prepared for the trip.

Three weeks after the move, we loaded everyone in the car and drove the three hours and forty minutes back to Auntie Norlyn's house for Rosh Hashanah. The drive was a little crazy, with two cases of car sickness and some crankiness, but we had a great time seeing our family.  When the meal was done, we piled back in the car for the ride home because they had school the next day. But when it got dark, #1 started  freaking out. "Am I going to sleep in my bed? We are lost forever. We will never go back to Maryland. Are we going to live at our old house with the new people?" We continued to reassure him as we drove home and when we got back, he still was upset.

Thanksgiving, we decided to go back again. We had celebrated every Thanksgiving of #2's life with them and wanted to continue that tradition. So we piled back in the car for the same day trip: three and half hours up, three and a half hours back. #1 was still upset, and when we visited our old neighbors who lived across the street from us in NJ, he stared out the window at our old house the entire time.

Chanukah, we didn't go. Passover, we went. 

And then the following year, we didn't go at all. #2 was having extreme anxiety issues and #1 was still freaking out about road trips; "are we leaving forever?"  And the twins did not travel well. They would scream within 15 minutes of being in the car. It was a sad decision but after listening to them scream for three hours in their car seats it was easier to make. Need to preserve sanity.

Slowly and awkwardly we had to do things on our own. We put together our Rosh Hashanah celebration and got the kids involved. We made the ceremony short and sweet and made it through. Hmm, not so bad. Thanksgiving was harder for us since Auntie Norlyn's house was always a hotbed of happiness and activity. It wasn't unusual for 20 people to be there. But, we did it and made up some new traditions. 

And, just when I thought we could try again, Grandpa Mike died. He was the Patriarch of the family. He was head of the table, leader of all religious gatherings. He held our baby boys at the Bris and he held the girls at their baby namings. He was our guy, the one #2 would want to be next to and talk with. He was gone, and #2 was really affected by his loss. "Mom, is Grandpa Mike going to come back with the dinosaurs after the next ice age?" How could you say "no" to that?

And just like that, a decade of tradition ended.

Since then, we've had to come up with our own list of traditions. We did continue a bunch of Auntie Norlyn's traditions like watching the Thanksgiving Day Parade, but we DVR it and watch it later in the day and speed through the commercials. During Chanukah, we dedicate one night just for her presents. Some times, we Skype while they open the presents and other times we take video or pictures and send them. We still keep them ingrained in our traditions. During Passover, we talk about how much we miss Grandpa Mike leading the ceremony,  Grandma's Hilda's home made noodles, Aunt Jill's Macaroons, Uncle Edo's big hugs and Auntie Norlyn's great smiles and the loads of Gluten free, dairy-free, egg free things she would find for #2. She always made him feel like royalty. Like it was super-awesome to have those allergies.

We're finding our way slowly but surely and we're grateful for the foundation we were given. And this week for Rosh Hashanah, we went to celebrate with 5000 other Baltimore Jews at Rosh Hashanah Under the Stars, which is a big picnic with a service in a park. And the second night, the kids wanted to eat outside, "just like we did at Auntie Norlyn's house when I was little", Julian added.

We may not be together, but they are still with us. Traditions are a reflection of love and spirit and we have plenty of that. Happy New year to all.
Norlyn & Me

#2 & Grandpa Mike


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