Traditions

Connie Spittler, USA

Essayist and poet, Connie wrote & produced the Wise Women videos, selected for Harvard University’s Library on the History of Women in America.

(Submitted by the author)

Pulled by the sun, my husband Bob and I threw away our mittens, woolly hats and snow shovels as we moved from the Midwest to Arizona. No more flakes of lace falling on a silent, sleeping yard or night air crisp enough to freeze the tips off stars. Some holiday images we forfeited, but one tradition we kept. The Spittler Christmas Eve supper.

On our first married Christmas, we chose our parents’ traditional oyster stew, but neither of us was enthusiastic, so we kept searching. Each year, we tried different foods, trying to settle on a worthy eve offering.

Then, when the kids were still small, we called a family meeting to decide on the most perfect, most special Spittler Christmas Eve meal. Getting six people (four of them children) to endorse one menu wasn’t easy, however, after the vote, the winner was declared: canned tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches. This classic combination became our holiday eve supper of choice.

Except for once, a couple of years ago when I asked Bob if, since we were alone, I could buy easy deli offerings. That Christmas Eve we snacked our way through a different, more extravagant format.

The next morning our youngest daughter Valerie phoned to say that while driving on a traffic-logged California interstate on Christmas Eve to be with friends, she’d turned off the highway three times to find a restaurant that served tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches. Celebrations of memory are not so easily denied. Though difficult to confess that we’d broken with custom, I did so. But with a sigh.

After I hung up, I thought about the strength of family traditions, the gifts of continuity that reach like rubber bands and do not break, no matter how far they’re stretched. Two common foods wrap our family together in a bow of remembrance, more significant than expensive presents under the tree. Though we weren’t with one another, if we savored red soup and hot cheese, on that night our connection reached to every table.

That’s the reason my wish for you is a holiday of your own traditions, whatever holiday it may be. From my kitchen to yours, here’s to peace on earth, tomato soup as rosy as winterberries and golden cheese, melting inside pan-grilled bread.

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