Traditionally Speaking

The question has always stumped me.  I have never come up with a really good answer.  My whole life, I have always been flummoxed when someone puts me to the task of explaining my family traditions or heritage-related stuff.  I guess it is because I wasn’t really raised in any kind of specific, culturally rich atmosphere.

We only spoke one language in my house.  I didn’t have a crazy grandmother always yelling things in Greek or Italian or Chinese at me.  Don’t get me wrong.  I definitely had a crazy grandmother.  It’s just that she yelled, “Dammit!  Who hid my cigarettes again?” and “Don’t be a beer counter, you little jerk!” in English.  Nobody came to America on a boat or was smuggled in a truck (or even flew here on a plane for that matter) for at least a few generations back.  We definitely didn’t celebrate any holidays that weren’t pre-marked in red or depicted in the monthly picture on the linen hand towel calendar in the kitchen.

If Snoopy wasn't drinking a margarita, how were we supposed to know to celebrate Cinco de Mayo?

If Snoopy and Woodstock were slinging back sunflowers instead of margaritas, how were we supposed to know to celebrate Cinco de Mayo?

There was always talk that my father’s side of the family was German along with some other Western European sprinkles (French, English) and my mother’s side was similar, minus the German, and somehow plus some Native American.  I think that my ancestors have lived on American soil for a really long time, but honestly I’ve never actually entered my credit card information on ancestry.com to confirm or find out otherwise.  I don’t know what is true and what is made up.  I have always just considered myself kind of a cultural mutt.  And I am okay with that.

Until Thanksgiving, that is.

‘Tis the season for unveiling your cultural relevance and family traditions.  The friends with whom we will be celebrating Thanksgiving asked how we could incorporate ours with theirs.  This year my parents and two of my sisters and their families are going on a cruise in the Carribbean.  I was just going to watch football and make stuffing from the box, so… um, just run with yours.  Most of my kids are working on homework assignments and projects that involve where they came from and how we as a family celebrate that.  I think that the kids are as frustrated about the family void when it comes to this subject as I was, so they are finally employing some creative license to get the job done.

Kid B was given the assignment by her Spanish teacher to make and explain a traditional, cultural recipe as it applies to her family.  She asked if she could instead make an old, family dessert recipe* that would represent our heritage, even though it had nothing to do with us maybe being slightly German-English-French-1/16th Cherokee.  The teacher said go for it.

So Kid B went to the grocery store and got the ingredients for cookie dough, a box of Oreos, and a brownie kit.  She mixed them individually, layered the cookie dough on the bottom, covered it with the Oreos, and then spread the brownie mix on top.  And, voila… a batch of “slutty brownies” was made.  Yes, that’s really what they are called due to the wicked threesome of ingredients.

According to family lore, you can make them even sluttier by adding a layer of dulce de lece before the brownies.

According to ancient family lore, you can make them even sluttier by adding a layer of dulce de lece before the brownies.

So now I guess, traditionally speaking, I can finally say we have a cultural identity.  And I am okay with that, although I do hope it translates to something a little nicer in Spanish.

Wish me luck for tomorrow…

*Slutty brownies are not, in fact, any kind of old, family recipe.  I have never made them in my life.  As far as I know, they started going around the internet a few years ago.  They are both easy to make and sinfully delicious.  Kid B was just looking for an excuse to make them.

The Holiday Wrench

I did all of the laundry so everybody would have clean clothes to pack.  I charged the pump so we could blow up the air mattress for somebody to sleep on when we got there.  I filled the gas tank in the truck so we could get up this morning at 3 A.M. and just drive.  I did a little early Christmas shopping for some bigger items so we could drive them up instead of shipping them.  I’m not even gonna start on the preparations that Grandma and Grandpa made in anticipation of our Thanksgiving visit… the shopping, the cleaning, the cooking, the “little” projects around the house.

Turns out they were all for naught, though, because we have kids.  And kids come with a cornucopia of wrenches that they will throw into the gears of our lives at any given moment.  And because of a sick wrench, the seven of us are all milling around our house in Georgia instead of driving somewhere along I-77 watching (or just listening to, if you sit in the front seat and can’t view the screen) a Disney-Pixar movie right now.

Exactly what we were trying to avoid
*photo courtesy of Google Images*

On Monday, Kid A came home from school in tears.  She was extremely nauseous and on top of that another girl in her lit class had written an essay about her (a very flattering one, not a mean one) that made her extremely emotional.  Since naps are my go-to cure-all, I immediately sent her to bed.  She felt a little better after that, but ended up not going to school on Tuesday because she got worse through the night.  She had a fever and didn’t have the energy to get off of the couch.  She was shaky and dizzy and icky, but I figured whatever it was would run its course and be gone after 24 hours.  So I kept on packing.

But by Tuesday at 5 P.M., while standing amidst 6 fully packed duffel bags (Sheepdog, of course, waits until the very last minute to pack.  He also feels the need to run every article of clothing past me as he does it, despite my insistence that I DO NOT CARE which damn shirt he wears to drive home), 7 winter coats, 7 sets of hats and gloves, 7 pairs of sneakers, 7 backpacks filled with charged electronics and books, a soccer ball, a football, a few baseball gloves and balls, the travel pillows and blankets, the sleeve of DVDs, the camera bag, the snack bag and the drink cooler, Sheepdog and I made the decision to cancel our trip.

The kids’ reactions were similar… all of them were very sad that they wouldn’t be seeing their Grandma and Grandpa, or their aunt and uncle and cousins.  Kid D started to cry inconsolably and he continued through bedtime.  Kid E was mad at me.  But I saw an ever so slight look of relief pass over Kid A’s face when she realized that she wouldn’t have to fake tough for ten hours riding through the ups and downs of the mountain roads while trying not to even think about throwing up even though she would have the Tupperware vomit bowl within her arms’ reach the whole time.  We would also be sitting right next to her the whole time, breathing her sick air and coming into contact with her cooties, pretty much guaranteeing that somebody else would have what she has for the trip home.  It was definitely the right call.

The next call I had to make was to my in-laws, who were vibrating with so much excitement in anticipation of our arrival that I could feel it through the phone lines.  Ironically, our trip to visit them earlier last summer was canceled on their end, as they were all dealing with some sort of plague that we couldn’t take a chance contracting, especially since Kid A’s boyfriend had just had a bone marrow transplant and was extremely immunocompromised.  I was scared that my mother-in-law would be furious or cry or have some sort of extreme reaction that would cause me even more guilt than I was already experiencing, but she was understanding and gracious and so sweet about everything.

So now we are all home.  We have the gift of an unexpected day with nothing much on the schedule.  Kid A is recuperating and we are all keeping our distance.  Kid B went to the movies to see Breaking Dawn Part II (which was AWESOME by the way… best of the series) for the sixteenth time.  Kid C and Kid D are running around in shorts outside playing some sort of bucket, snoochie boochie game.  Kid E is shadowing Sheepdog while he changes the air filters and applies wood putty to a broken door and generally performs a bunch of Sheepdog chores around the house.  I am going to take a much-needed nap.  And tomorrow, as long as everybody has been fever-free for at least 24 hours and nobody shows any signs of being sick, we will join two of my sisters and their families, as well as my mom and dad for Thanksgiving dinner down the street.

I sure hope nobody throws a wrench into that plan.

Wish me luck for tomorrow…