Tradition, Tradition!

Posted by mwallach on July 20, 2011 in My Kids, New To You |

Dear That’s Life,
At the end of what felt like an interminable fast day (how’s THAT for a contradiction in terms), it seems a bit staged that I have poured my coffee into my beloved “It’s All Good” coffee mug. There’s something insanely ironic about my choice, though it may have come down to simply being the biggest cup in the cabinet. Sitting next to a Costco size bottle of Advil, a bagel with cream cheese to my left, I am the stereotypical post-fast Jew, missing only the lox.

Much has been said lately about tradition, how it keeps us together as a people, how it defines us as a religion. While I do not think I needed the events of last week to remind me of that, I do agree completely, having written about it before. My husband likes to remind me that just because something has always been done a particular way does not mean it must continue that way. He has never said that, however, about religion or tradition. There is a reason they are there, and a reason they should remain. Even though he will break his fast this evening on a steak rather than on a dairy meal, something that bothers me to my core, that is not one of the traditions to which I am referring.

Visiting day in camp has its traditions as well, some of which stem purely from the practical. As a camper, I knew my parents would bring bagels, lox and cream cheese for lunch on that one Sunday during the summer when they were allowed to visit. A sharp knife and cutting board in hand, we made our sandwiches, and picnicked on the lawn. That was our tradition and one that I’ve insistently kept with my own children, until this year.

Embedded amidst all of the requests I received for visiting day laid a decree. “NO BAGELS!” read the letter home. Listed were all of the items we were expected to shlep up, including things they could not live without, like Chex mix. I had already been warned before they boarded the buses three weeks ago that bagels on visiting day was not going to fly, though I completely planned on bringing them anyway. If nothing else, they are practical, versatile and a staple. On a completely different note, however, we are Jews and Jews=bagels. I have no clue what food non-Jews take with them on long car rides, but people of the book, especially those from New York, take bagels.

The last letter I received before visiting day from my eldest, the one addressed to “Gourmet Glatt” (a local kosher supermarket) but at my home address, was titled “Visiting Day Shopping List”. Not even a “Dear Mommy” at the top, the page was filled with items we were supposed to bring. At the bottom of the list, however, were her lunch requests, reminding us that bagels were not allowed. Penne a la’ vodka, sushi and fresh pizza all made the list, though it seemed the child needed some serious reminding who her parents were. Pizza was the only suggestion we considered, deciding to take everyone off campus for lunch. The other requests were quickly filed under the “What were you thinking?” column.

Needing a dose of reality, I decided to teach my daughter a little lesson. If she did not want bagels, that was fine as there was another form of bread Jews are known to take on long journeys: matza. I may have been the only one to pack a box of Streits matza for visiting day, but far from the sushi request, it was certainly going to prove a point.

While my eldest rolled her eyes when I showed her what I had brought, my younger daughter was thrilled. “Yay!” she exclaimed when she saw the pink box. “Can I keep whatever we don’t eat?” When I explained that we were going off campus for lunch to have pizza, that the matza was only to make a point, she got even more excited. “You mean I get to take the WHOLE box?” she replied.

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