The Traditional Family
Normally, I would be like JP, not being able to restrain myself from sharing the traditions of my AWESOME family. But for some reason, I find myself hesitating; trying to fabricate the zeal that I know I feel.
I’m tired, and frankly, this familial retrospection has made me just a little melancholy for the good old days. While I wouldn’t trade a single new addition (infant nor adult) for the days of yore I DO miss the nuclear union of Dad, Mom and the seven kids. I miss being Dad and Mom’s kid. Maybe this has something to do with the fact that even though I am now 30, I still feel like their kid, and since I just spent time with them this weekend, I am still coming down (or up) from being in their presence…
So now to the traditions…
We are Swedish. Or rather, we choose to be Swedish. My great-grandfather and his wife came over from Sweden about 100 odd years ago, and while the rest of my heritage is generally British, we have clung tooth and nail to the Swedish bits.
I have a Swedish friend who knows our family, and his family kind of makes fun of our family for “being SO Swedish.” Not exactly a compliment.
But we are proud of this heritage because it has become a strong tradition. Every generation since (and including) Grandpa Gustav Emil Oscarson has returned to the “Motherland” or “Moderland” to serve as a missionary, and two have returned again as mission presidents. So also has missionary work become part of our family’s tradition. It also strengthens the Swedish tradition that my family lived there when I was young (in the 70’s) and that half of us kids have memories of family, places, adventures, and friends in Gotenburg, Sweden.
We have a Swedish Christmas Yuleboard that includes some yummy and some not-so-yummy traditional foods: ham, potatoes (served several ways but always with plenty of dairy products on hand), Lingonberry sauce, meatballs, herring, hardbread, Jul Must (a beverage), and various other items picked up for nostalgia sake at the local IKEA.
Christmas also involves getting together to act out the Nativity, sing Swedish songs, dance through the house holding hands and ringing bells (to ring the Christmas spirit into every room in the house), Christmas Eve PJ’s and all the kids sleeping in one room, sleepover style, as we are read to sleep by the oldest (Amy Lynn) from special Christmas books from England that ONLY get read at Christmas.
But now on to some of the more unique traditions:
We are a play-putting-on people. A people of drama, if you will. Pageantry is in our blood. No, really. My uncle wrote the “City of Joseph” pageant that was performed in Nauvoo for 30 years, my grandma was a “Cougarette” at BYU (in 1928!!!), my aunts sing and dance and write roadshows, as do a bevy of cousins, Aunt-in-laws, and actual siblings. There was not (and still is not) a family get-together without some sort of talent show or impromptu performance.
When I was 6, Amy Lynn wrote a play to accompany the tape of “Saturday’s Warriors”. There were scenes, costume changes, and choreography. We rehearsed this performance for a WEEK! The highlight in my memory is of me and my brother Chip holding hands and staring into each other’s eyes as we lip synch “The Circle of Our Love.”
We also created performances to the records of “Mary Poppins”, Tchaikovsky’s “Romeo and Juliet”, “Sound of Music”, The Fifth Dimension, The Monkeys, The Beatles, The Beachboys, and Beethoven’s “Sonata in D Minor” (a performance that made me cry real tears…it was about a mother and daughter who love to dance together and the daughter dies and her ghost comes back to dance with her mother…SO sad…).
Every Saturday, after “chores” and during Mom’s errands, the kids who were old enough to stay at home alone had a dance contest. We each chose a song and created an improvisational dance for the other kids. Some of the most coveted songs were “Uptown Girl”, “Ain’t Nothin’ Gonna Break-a My Stride”, and then later “I’m So Excited” and ANYTHING from Whitney Houston’s debut album.
The tradition that rises above all afore mentioned (and unmentioned) traditions is the one of gathering at my Grandparent’s house on Sunday evenings. Because we lived in close proximity to my dad’s parents and several of the aunts uncles and cousins, it was natural for us gather; for the adults to chat and for the kids to play. In this setting, we learned about love and obligation, respect, deference, and honor, how to “get-along”, how to have fun, family togetherness and loyalty to the Oscarson name and heritage.
And I can’t leave out the tradition of our shared religious experience. Yes, there are many aspects of Mormonism that are comfortable because they are tradition. Yes, I’ll admit that there is a strong sense of belonging and family loyalty born of common religious belief and practice, but the tradition goes so much deeper. This tradition is sealed with familial blood and literal sacrifice. What can bind a family more strongly than this?
Ah yes, the power of the priesthood. What a comfort it was to me as I spent time with my maternal grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles, and cousins this weekend to know that I am bound to these good people not only by blood and DNA and shared experiences, but also by a real power; a power to seal us together in life as well as death. A power that binds me to generations of the very people who made the major sacrifices to ensure that I would inherit the same blessings they fought for.
I feel encircled by the arms of family tradition. I feel it in my bones. This is not an obligation borne of duty only, but rather born of love, respect, and admiration.
Not that long ago, I let go of the safety of tradition to create my own legacy, to start my own family, to pass on and begin new family traditions. I had to step out on my own and decide for myself whether or not that religious tradition was real, or merely for tradition’s sake; for family loyalty.
Todd and I have made a conscious decision that our religious heritage is more than just good stories. We believed it to be a true religion based on pure and true principles. We are the culmination of efforts made decades and centuries before us, and we feel honor in carrying the proverbial torch to a new generation; a new family. Honestly, I can sometimes almost hear the whispers of encouragement and feel the gently prodding hands of people who have gone on before me who are excitedly waiting to see the drama of our family life unfold. We both feel excited to pass the traditions along; the good ones, the silly ones, and the new ones we have yet to create.