Essays on Faith: Family traditions live on and sometimes die hard

What is it about the holidays that stirs up memories? It takes only a simple everyday happening to trigger a wonderful long-ago mind picture!

For instance, this evening, when I made a cup of coffee in my Keurig, I watched, biting my lip, as the coffee kept coming until it was even with the rim of the cup. I was prepared to clean up the mess it was bound to make, but, lucky for me, it stopped just in time. It irks me when a machine appears smarter than I am.

Instant flashback: my dad sitting at my kitchen table while I pour him a cup of coffee. When I stop pouring, he pushes the cup toward me and says, “Give me a cup of coffee!” I laugh and finish filling it to the rim. It’s a pet-peeve — people who give him three-quarters of a cup of coffee.

Remembering that led me to other memories of him that are just as sweet.

When I was a little girl, many stores had candy counters where they sold loose candy by the pound. They’d weigh out the amount you wanted, put it in a bag and charge you accordingly.

Every Christmas Eve morning, as far back as I can remember, Daddy would get up early, have breakfast and head out to do some shopping. When he returned a few hours later, he not only had some secret purchases, which he immediately hid, but he also had a large white bag. I always knew what was in it and watched intently as he took individual white bags out of the large one. One contained chocolate drops (remember those?); another, chocolate covered peanuts, which I loved; and yet another had assorted hard candy. There were candy canes, cinnamon drop and thick chunks of fudge. Even though my mother always made fudge, it was part of his tradition to buy it, too. He also delivered bags of candy to some less-fortunate children in the area. He was a kind man.

Even though he’s been gone for many years, much of my life still revolves around recollections of him.

At Christmastime, whenever I feel overwhelmed and a little out of sorts, as we all do at times, all I have to do is think of my father and the things he’d be doing if he were here — and I smile.

I cherish family traditions.

One can tell because I do things the same every year. Even before they see it, our children know exactly what our Christmas tree will look like. We’ve used the same ornaments for many years, adding a couple each year. Some are a pleasure to add, like the new one that mysteriously appears on our tree every year. We’ve dubbed it, the “alien” ornament. We’re not sure who contributes it, but each year, when we take down the tree, we find an ornament that we’ve never seen before. Apparently, a member of our family finds it amusing to surprise us in this way and we enjoy it!

The next year, when we decorate the tree, there is one more ornament to hang than we had last year. It’s fun to hold it in my hand and say, “This is the alien ornament from last year,” and then hang it in a prominent place.

We have a large family. We’ve always gathered for every special occasion. We sate ourselves with the mouth-watering foods of the season, laugh a lot and enjoy each other’s company completely.

But, although tradition dies hard for me, sometimes, I must accept that things are changing. I’m not in charge anymore and have to go with the flow, like it or not.

A few years ago, due to work scheduling, our daughter had to break the news to me that she and her family wouldn’t be spending Thanksgiving at the home where she was raised. For the first time in her life, she wouldn’t have dinner with her parents, brothers and sisters, and nieces and nephews. Instead, she’d prepare dinner at her home for her husband, herself and their two children.

Fighting back tears, I assured her they’d enjoy having Thanksgiving on their own, but I was certain our day wouldn’t be the same without them.

She wrote an apologetic email promising it would be different the next year. But my heart knew this was just the first step to breaking away.

It hurts terribly for parents, especially mothers, to let their children go. We invest our hearts, minds and spirits into their physical, emotional, social and spiritual well-being. It can be very difficult when that part of our lives comes to an end.

Yet, this is as it should be.

God has loaned these children temporarily to parents to love, nurture, train and finally release so that they may seek God’s will for their lives apart from us.

But, I pray that He will always lead them home for Christmas!

Peggy Toney Horton lives in Nitro.

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Funerals for Sunday, December 8, 2019

Board, Dencil - 3 p.m., Curry Funeral Home, Alum Creek.

Booher, Hughes - 3 p.m., Maranatha Fellowship, St. Albans.

Carpenter, Homer - 2 p.m., Hafer Funeral Home, Elkview.

Collins, Jacob - 2 p.m., Morris Funeral Home, Cowen.

Donahue-Moubray, Kathleen - 3 p.m., Haven of Rest Mausoleum, Red House.

Estes, Peggy - 2 p.m., Chapman Funeral Home, Hurricane.

Friel, Ruth - 1 p.m., Lantz Funeral Home, Buckeye.

Johnson, Marvin - 1 p.m., High Lawn Mausoleum, Oak Hill.

Linville, Vada - 2 p.m., Orchard Hills Memory Gardens, Yawkey.

Pettit, Michele - 3:30 p.m., Faith Baptist Church, Spencer.

Prue, Margaret - 2 p.m., Handley Funeral Home, Danville.

Scott, Robert - 3 p.m., Capital High School, Charleston.

Smith, Wanda - 3 p.m., Billy Hunt Cemetery, Kettle Road.

Sneed, Virginia - 2 p.m., Waybright Funeral Home, Ripley.