It’s a Family Tradition

Times change, and traditions stay the same…sort of. Its hard to believe that I used to jump out of bed at 6am on Christmas morning — anticipating the wonderful treasures Santa had left after his trip down the chimney. The family rule was that you could open any presents listed as “From: Santa” before the “Official Present Opening Ceremony”, which sometimes didn’t happen until after Christmas supper (aaarrgh)! I think my parents created this rule after being woken up by a cacophany of excited pleading and begging to unwrap all the gifts around 5am!¬†ūüôā The first year the rule was in effect, I misinterpreted it and thought I was allowed to open any presents listed as “To: Rory”. That was an anticlimactic Christmas because I had to sit and watch everyone else open their presents later in the day. And as I watched all the beautiful wrapping and bows fall to the floor, I realized that unwrapping presents and discovering the gold that glittered beneath was sometimes more fun than having the presents themselves.

I’m always intrigued to find out which traditions stick, which ones go the way of the DoDo, and which ones hibernate a few years before popping back up.¬†Some of my friends went to Christmas Mass last night with their families. Others went to annual Christmas Eve parties. And some just stayed at home and¬†spent time with their families. I can’t say the “Atlanta Ledbetters” have a standard Christmas Eve tradition at this point, but I do know that by the end of the night there is always a¬†lot of merriment and laughter in the family kitchen..

And now Christmas Day is upon us and the house is bustling with energy. My mom is hustling around the kitchen baking sweet potatoes,¬† a big turkey and my favorite new addition to the spread, a ToFurkey! Luckily, I’m the only one who eats the ToFurkey so I’m guaranteed left-overs! ūüėČ My dad glides around the kitchen intuitively stepping in to assist when needed and stepping back out to give my mom her space. Its a wonderful dance that has been crafted and perfected over their 39 year-young¬†marriage. My sister and brother-in-law are expected to arrive at any minute…that’s right any minute now…in just a second…sometime soon…today…and then the festivities will really begin! I’m excited because this year I’m taking everybody to the movies as one of my gifts. We used to always go see a movie after¬†we opened presents. Then a combination of my grandmother dealing with a hip injury and the cost of movie tickets¬†made Blockbuster rentals a more sensible option. But the hope of one day going to the movies again as a family beckoned in the background like a distant siren call. And in a few hours that dream will once again become a reality…and, who knows, it¬†may even¬†become¬†a new tradition —¬†there’s just something magical about going to the theatre with loved ones, seeing a movie and then discussing it on the ride home…

Who knows what “traditions” may change this year. What I do know is something will be a surprise. In improvisational theatre there is a mantra to say “Yes, and…” to everything that happens. It’s in the “Yes, and…”¬† that¬†you embrace what’s in front of you and add on to it. Said another way, you accept the events that unfold before your eyes, cast aside judgement, and find a way to add your own spice to the situation. If the turkey burns, “Great! Let’s see what else we can make from the fridge!”¬† If you get a present you don’t want, “Awesome!” — (maybe¬†you can sell it on eBay later… :)). Yes! Basically, you have the power today (and everyday) to say “Yes, and…” to family, joy and merriment. You get to choose how you respond to every situation that occurs. Want to take a family picture? “Yes, and let’s make one with silly faces too!”…Your¬†“traditions” may change this year. That’s okay.¬†If you notice yourself starting to get annoyed or wishing you were doing something else, change your thoughts to “Yes, and…”, finish the phrase¬†and see how you can become a contribution to what’s new. Simply by saying “Yes, and…” in your mind alters your entire experience in the present moment.¬† You don’t even have to say anything. The most important part about “Yes, and…” is that you remain open to possibilities and co-creating with others. And sometimes being open makes all the difference!

In closing, in case people wanna know:¬† Rory, what’s¬†your Christmas like? What do you all do? Why isn’t there more constancy between all of you? Well just so¬†ya”ll know, without a prediction, whatever we do is¬†still carryin’ on¬†an¬†old family tradition! Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!!!

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