Fiddler on the Roof

That precious memory triggers another: your honest faith—and what a rich faith it is, handed down from your grandmother Lois to your mother Eunice, and now to you! –2 Timothy 1:5 The Message

Ever wonder why you wake up with certain things running through your mind? I mean, things you haven’t been thinking about or have no apparent connection with the current status of your life.

The subconscious mind is a powerful yet subtle thing. There is a connection.

One morning, for example, I awoke with the song “Sunrise, Sunset” from the musical Fiddler on the Roof playing in the half-awake alcoves of my brain. As I lay there, I sang the words to myself.

Why did my subconscious pull this out of the recesses of my memory?

Maybe because I’m in the process of decluttering my house, and decluttering has a way of stirring up memories – memories that take me back through my life. I remembered the traditions of my family, of Dean’s family, and how Dean and I started family traditions of our own.

Fiddler on the Roof is about tradition, the traditions that enabled Tevye and his family to survive the tumultuous times in their Russian village prior to the Revolution of 1905.

“You might say every one of us is a fiddler on the roof trying to scratch out a pleasant, simple tune without breaking his neck,” says Tevye. “And how do we keep our balance? That I can tell you in one word: tradition!”

How important is tradition in today’s world of technology and high speed everything?

Tradition, first of all, gives us a sense of identity. Traditions are about more than ourselves. They are about our heritage, where we came from. There’s so much hype these days about tracing our roots, getting our DNA tested. But family traditions can help to provide the very thing those tests provide: a sense of where you came from – and why you are the way you are. And that sense of identity builds strong inter-generational family relationships. Listen carefully, then, to Grandma’s and Grandpa’s stories. They are a part of you.

Second, tradition gives us a sense of belonging. We are not alone in this big, wide, often cold world. We are a part of something – a family, a church, a community. Something bigger than ourselves.

Third, tradition gives a sense of stability, providing balance in a shaky, unstable world. It grounds us and roots us in the familiar. Life, after all, is as uncertain now as it was 113 years ago. Don’t we all find comfort and security in the familiar?

Finally, tradition gives us a sense of continuity. Stories passed down from generation to generation give a glimpse of our ancestors. Like a baton in a runner’s hands gets passed on to the next runner, so life goes on, “one season following another, laden with happiness and tears.”

How important are traditions?

Just look at the Old Testament. The traditions God established for His people – and commanded them to continue – gave the Hebrews a sense of identity, belonging, stability, and continuity. Not only did these traditions remind them of who they were, but Whose they were. They connected them with a God who redeemed them out of His mercy, grace, and love.

So it is today. I am so grateful for the traditions of faith passed on to me by my parents. And I pray I’ve passed traditions of faith on to my children and grandchildren. More than anything I yearn for them to see beyond the ritual to the essence of what tradition is all about.

How important are traditions?

In the words of Tevye, “Traditions, traditions. Without our traditions, our lives would be as shaky as . . . as . . . as a fiddler on the roof.”

What traditions give your life balance and stability? Are you passing them along to the next generation?

Thank you, Lord, for the traditions of faith that give my life stability in an unstable world. Amen.

 © 2018 Michele Huey. All rights reserved.

The Thanksgiving Day Cemetery Run

Dean, Todd, and me on our Thanksgiving Day Cemetery Run - Nov. 26, 2015
Dean, Todd, and me on our Thanksgiving Day Cemetery Run – Nov. 26, 2015

 

Remember the days of old; consider generations long past. – Deuteronomy 32:7 (NIV)

I don’t know if you picked up on it, but last week my heart just wasn’t in composing my traditional Thanksgiving column. The key word in that last sentence is “traditional.”

Our Thanksgiving traditions were, once again, changing, and not of our own doing or choice.

Growing up, my husband and I had different Thanksgiving traditions. While he spent the day with a whole clan of relatives, enjoying Grandma’s pies — and she baked plenty and a variety — I spent the day quietly reading while my mother, who shooed everyone out of the kitchen, prepared a turkey dinner for just the five of us. If any relative stopped in, it was for only a few minutes. We certainly never went anywhere on Thanksgiving Day.

Fast forward 20 years. Now married with my own family, I wanted to begin a new tradition: We hosted Thanksgiving dinner and invited Dean’s parents, and his sister and her family.

By then my own family was scattered. My brother and sister, both out-of-state, had established their own Thanksgiving traditions. My father had passed away, and my mother was grappling with Alzheimer’s Disease.

This tradition ran its cycle until our three children grew up. I never wanted them to feel obligated to come home for the holidays but rather to establish their own traditions. After all, isn’t that what we raise them for? To live their own lives, to make their own mark in their corner of the world.

But we still celebrated the day with some of our ever-growing family. I didn’t have to cook the entire meal any longer — just bring a dish or two — and that was just fine by me.

Then life changed. Again. This year we faced spending the day by ourselves. I realize there are those for whom Thanksgiving (and any other holiday) is “just another day.” But we didn’t want it to be that way for us. We have too many good memories of Thanksgiving past.

So my husband suggested something unusual: take the day and visit the cemeteries where our parents and grandparents are buried — to thank them for what they contributed to our lives.

And with our oldest son accompanying us, that’s what we did. On Thanksgiving Day, we drove 246 miles, stopped at six cemeteries, and visited our forebears — his parents and grandparents, buried in Jefferson County, and my parents and godparents in the Mon Valley (near Donora). We reminisced — even our son had memories of these precious folks, even though I’d thought he was too young to remember.

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We drove through two cemeteries where my grandparents are buried. I didn’t know exactly where their graves were, but just driving through was like a trip down memory lane, my mind and heart making connections I’d avoided making for far too long.

No, it wasn’t morbid. It was enlightening. And freeing.

Connecting with our past, touching base with our heritage, we realized how truly blessed we are. We are what we are because of what they were and what they did.

Seeing those gravestones gave us not a sense of loss or finality, but of continuity and hope. We are, we realized, the connection between the past and the future.

“We should note the days of old. They are what mold us.” (Curt Lovelace, “Memorializing the Past, A Practice in Remembering God’s Goodness”)

Who knows? Maybe we started a new tradition: The Thanksgiving Day Cemetery Run.

Thank you, Father God, for reminding us of the rich heritage we have. Help us to pass along that legacy to our children and grandchildren. May they, too, comprehend the continuity of life. Amen.

Extra tea: Read and meditate on Joshua 4:1–7