I have just finished a letter to my oldest friend. Yes, a letter. It is an exercise in reflection and recollection that is needed in my life. In this note I was recalling, of all things, the contents of her parent's house, like the modern furnishings juxtaposed to the stately antiques I was always secretly fussing with. There was a real Calder in the home, of course on a miniature scale but a Calder nonetheless, that I would tug on and watch shift in the air. It was magical. I also wrote to my friend that I remembered the sugar cubes we would steal from a hammered silver tea set that sat on a teak console, the coffee smells in the house, the egg cups and the folded linen napkins at the breakfast table. These images make up my childhood. I remember it because it was always the same. I knew there would always be a bush full of fat bumblebees in front of her door every summer day I strolled down the street to find her and where her mother's collection of poetry books were kept and where the very old model of a barn (that was not to be played with) was displayed in the basement. It contained some order I craved. There were four kids in my house and there was always some hamster or snake on the loose or the television blaring or cleaning up after the dog (under the piano) in the living room. Perhaps she craved our familiar chaos.
I am mentioning this letter for two reasons. One, I believe in the necessity of recalling our lives, to ourselves, with our friends and almost more importantly with our children. Stories are the building blocks for their imaginations and visions of the future and as a parent we can begin with our own stories and memories that they are truly captivated by. Your children want to know what you ate, what trees you climbed, what made you cry and laugh. It is life to share stories. Before television that is all humans did.
Second, I believe establishing tradition is key to creating security and joy for a child. I think desiring routine is a part of a spiritual hunger for the same smells and tastes, sighs and sounds that give us comfort and direction–despite the familiar protestations coming from the backseat as you drive to the same park or the same beach or walk to the same ice cream store. They will remember. They will tell the stories to their children and it will fill them up. We do our best as parents. Perhaps that sameness that we might not have had as children is a gift we can give to ours. It can be as simple as starting with a bowl of sugar cubes.