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Family Traditions: Which ones have you kept alive? And how do you start new ones?

I just got back from a girls’ trip down to Florida. Nora and I went with my mom and my sister and my sister’s 20 month old to my parents' place for three days. It was a fantastic little getaway—my first in a long time and Nora’s first ever!—and just what I needed. A little sun, a little swimming and a lot of rest and relaxation, which just doesn’t happen at home. Nick had taken Alex to Michigan for the weekend to visit family there so I had zero guilt about leaving my boys (in fact, our girls’ trip was in response to the boys’ trip which we weren’t invited on—we’ll show them, Nora!).


A little mother-daughter bonding

On our last afternoon we went down to the ocean to our favorite little clam bar. Nora, being the angel that she is, slept while I ate spicy peel-n-eat shrimp, crab legs dipped in butter and drank a glass of chardonnay. We played the juke box, listened to the waves roll and soaked it all in. Just as I was moist toweletting my greasy hands, Nora stirred and I decided to take her down to the beach for one last stroll. It was gorgeous and I felt so lucky to be there. With my daughter. As much as I missed Alex and Nick, I knew it was special to have those few days with Nora alone.


Nora's first time on a plane--she slept the whole way!

As we walked through the surf, I spotted a big, beautiful conch-like shell. I bent down to pick it up and instantly thought of my Grandma Ruth. She lived in Boca Raton, Florida for much of my life and every year we’d spend a week or two visiting her. And then she’d come live with us every summer. My grandma loved the sun and the beach and she loved to collect shells from every beach she visited. She had special bags for it and a cleaning system and the most beautiful collection. Some of my oldest—and fondest—memories are of walking on the beach with “Grammy” finding these little treasures.

When my grandma died (back in 2004) I inherited her shell collection. I have a giant, glass ball full of the more special ones on the dresser in my bedroom and about a million in different boxes out in my garage. For my rehearsal dinner, which was on a beach, I made place cards and centerpieces out of some of the shells. It was like my grandma was a part of my wedding even though she was gone. And it was very Martha, if I do say so myself…

I was sharing all of this with Nora and we were having a really nice moment. And then she spit up into the pile of shells I had in my hand and we were back to reality. Anyway, all of this is to say that I want to start collecting shells with Nora and Alex, to carry on the tradition that my grandma started all those years ago. I can buy a few glass jars and we can start filling them up. Summer is right around the corner and we live near the water so it won't be too hard to get it going. And I can tell the kids stories about their Great Grandma Ruth, who would have loved them so much (and spoiled them rotten—she was good at that).


It doesn't get any better than this.


Most of the other family traditions I hope to keep alive revolve around holidays (like our Christmas Eve ritual of wearing matching Christmas pajamas and reading Twas the Night Before Christmas in front of the fire), but I definitely want to start a few that are just ours. Definitely something that revolves around volunteering or charity work of some kind. And maybe an annual clambake, since I’m still dreaming about all that seafood I ate down in Florida. Oh, and probably the girls’ weekend/boys’ weekend thing. That was fun.

What family traditions do you hope to keep alive with your kids? Any you’d like to start from scratch? How do you do that without it seeming forced?


I think she's gonna be a beach baby!