Traditions

Every summer of my childhood, my parents took me to the beach. My parents are creatures of habit, so it was always the same beach. The same condo, even. I was an only child, and my parents understood how lonely a vacation could be for a kid without siblings. So, they always let me bring a friend along. It was a magical time — getting to see my hard working parents relax and cut loose, and having a friend to pal around with. It was an only child’s dream.

We have continued the tradition into my adulthood. Every year, same beach, same restaurants. And although my more adventurous spirit would love to try something new, there is comfort in tradition.

I’ll always love our yearly vacation spot. And now, my children get to experience it with me.

Our last family vacation was several years ago. It was a tough trip for my family. My parents are both in their 70s, and although they are still very active and healthy, the beach is getting harder for them as they age. My dad has COPD. Even as fit as he is, trudging through sand really taxes his lungs. That last vacation was spent mostly with my dad watching us from the balcony while we played and bathed in the sun.

We made the most of the visit and still had plenty of fun with my dad. In the evening, after the kids were in bed, we’d all go out onto the big wrap-around balcony and sip drinks, play games, and laugh until tears came. But that year, as we packed our bags and said our goodbyes to the condo, a great, deep sadness came over me.

It occurred to me that it might be the last time we were all together on this beach.

God willing, my parents still have lots of years left. I knew we would have plenty of opportunities to make amazing memories together. It just seemed like they probably wouldn’t want to come back to the beach again, and I felt like a very important part of my life was slipping between my fingers. And as we put the beach in our rear view mirror, the tears streamed silently down my cheeks.

I didn’t have to ask whether we would go on our beach vacation the following year, because at that time my husband and I were separated. We were both traumatized and struggling, trying to figure out if we were going to divorce or not. It was obviously a bad time to think about vacation. Then, last year, we had just reconciled and moved our family back in together. We were focused on our new life. Vacation just wasn’t on our minds.

This year, in 2023, we are back at that beach. That condo. And yes, my parents are here with us.

I never thought I’d see this place again with both of my parents by my side.

As we sit here, three generations looking over the balcony at the beautiful, mesmerizing ocean, my heart swells with gratitude. This is tradition, a blessing not every family gets.

It’s also cycle-breaking. Growing up, my parents were all I had. They made the difficult decision to separate me from most of my extended family because of the bad choices they made. It was the right decision, but it came at a cost. I didn’t get to have a family the way other kids did. The only traditions I got were the ones my parents created. But now, my children get to have family. Generational traditions. Memories of my parents.

Oh, the great undulation of emotion that sentence puts in my heart. My children get to remember my parents.

What a gift. What a blessing.

So, I’m taking lots of pictures. I’m leaning into every tradition — even the ones I rolled my eyes at as a kid. I’m determining with every fiber of my soul to not argue or let tensions arise. I won’t take a single moment for granted.

Life has been hard lately, for a number of reasons. But today, on this beach surrounded by the people I love most — the people who brought me into this world, the person who chose to walk through life with me, and the people we brought to this world together — I see how beautiful this life is.

These are traditions. This is family. This is what blessed feels like.

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