I received a thoughtful answer from the PBS show, Xavier Riddle and the Secret Museum. The episode was “I Am Rukmini Devi” which shared the story of how Rukmini Devi brought back the Indian classical dance form of Bharatanatyam. Part of the overall story was the importance of traditions, and at one point Rukmini Devi states that traditions are part of a family’s story.
I had never thought of it exactly that way, but it is true. A tradition is not just something you do on a regular basis, it helps tell the story of you. The story of those you share the tradition with. Making blueberry muffins every Sunday has given us milestones to remember our past and to celebrate the present moment. Almost every child has helped make breakfast on Sunday morning, lately my third daughter has cooked the scrambled eggs. I didn’t supervise her this past Sunday. These are small moments but they highlight the change our family goes through as we live life.
We have stories to tell because of our Sunday morning tradition of blueberry muffins, those stories bond us together. And as my children get older, especially the boys as they are starting their adult lives, they will start their own traditions but will always know the story of our family because of blueberry muffins. I am thankful for that.
I sometimes consider taking a picture to catalog all the weird things I see on my walks. I’ve found money, seen lost toys, socks, gloves, you name it. Each item gets me wondering about how it found its way to that place on the street. This morning I found a Sonic mint.
I wondered what the story was of the mint. I imagined a car load of teens making a late night food run, not unlike my son and his friends. Easter break started on Thursday. My son and his friends made a McDonald’s and DQ run that night. How do I know? Because the family room where they hangout was littered with McNugget boxes, McDonald’s bags, and DQ cups with red spoons in them. Normal teenage behavior.
I continued down the street thinking about the Sonic mint. Did they search the bag inside the house wondering where the mint went? I smiled at that thought. I started to think about how crazy life is. Whoever lost the mint had no idea that I discovered it. That I would write a blog post about that mint.
Then Holden Caulfield came to mind. And I stopped for a minute because my eyes started to tear up.
I had one of those deep moments of understanding brought on when your life experiences connect to a book, or song, or other media. I understood why Holden didn’t want time to move on. Why he didn’t want to grow up. But standing in the middle of a street a few yards away from a Sonic mint I felt the weight of change Salinger was writing about in The Catcher in the Rye.
Especially over the last year, I have walked the streets of my neighborhood a lot. During the lockdown last spring, I would walk a few times a day. Sometimes with my kids, sometimes alone. It felt like the world had stopped… but life didn’t. Each day I was different. Today, I felt it. I understood how heavy life’s change is. Simultaneously, I felt joy and sadness.
Joy because life is an adventure. Each day brings opportunities to grow, to discover new things, to learn, to laugh, and to love. Yes, there are negative things that happen each day, but we can learn from them, too.
The wave of sadness was the strongest, though, standing there. Rationally we all know that time doesn’t stop. My second son will graduate in May. My youngest daughter is seven. I will turn 50 this year!. We all know the truth about time, but what hit me was the reality of all the good things that have ended. This morning there were only 5 Easter baskets, instead of 6. I will never watch my son wear number 15 in a varsity game. I will never be 18 again. I felt all those endings this morning.
I’m not sharing this to paint a picture that life is sad, on the contrary, those endings mean there were beginnings, middles, and stories to tell. But Holden was right. Every day we are different in some small way, even if you see a rainbow, it is sad knowing that rainbows have an end, too.
It is Sunday morning. There are a few blueberry and chocolate chip muffins left in the muffin pans. A pile of muffin cups on the island. The girls are watching The Greatest Showman while my wife is getting ready for church. Yesterday my wife and I attended another wedding of a former student. This summer we were invited to five weddings, two family members and three former students.
At the moment, we are going through one of the roughest times we have ever experienced. I only share this to set up the importance of this blog. There is no “Happily Ever After” for any story, but there are blueberry muffins to be made.
As I have mentioned, I got to see the start of new stories. I saw grooms get teary eyed as the bride walked down the aisle. I heard vows. Watched rings placed on hands. And witnessed the couples kiss for the first time as a married couple. The beginning of a new story for them.
Weddings feel like Happily Ever After.
But every story has a conflict. In fact, the longer the story, the more conflicts there are. Some last only a page, while other conflicts wage on for chapters. Each conflict has its own resolution. Sometimes for the better, other times the resolution leaves the characters changed.
Stories also have literary elements, like symbols, metaphors, and paradoxes. These are the things that make a story worth reading. That make the characters laugh and cry. Feel joy and pain. Our family has a symbol, as many of you know, and that is blueberry muffins. Throughout all of our plot twists we have had Sunday morning breakfasts of blueberry muffins. A morning when we are family, a foundation that has stood for 20 years.
As my wife and I drove home from another beautiful wedding, we talked about the past (how I was a part of the groom’s story in high school) and about how we were going to get through this conflict in our story. This morning as we made muffins, everything was swimming in my head, and I thought: I don’t wish all the new married couples a Happily Ever After, I hope they write a powerful symbol into their story that they can rely on when the conflicts come.
On Saturday, I attended the wedding of a former student, Jason. The wedding was centered on the couple’s Love Story. The program shared important dates for them; first road trip, first date, the day he proposed. The ceremony, also, intertwined their Love Story. It was a beautiful moment… in their Life Story.
The wedding party had seven former students; the officiant, the groom, an usher, and four of the groomsmen. Not to mention all the other former students I visited with during the reception. It had been over 10 years since I had seen many of them. Many of the conversations centered on how life had changed for all of us. Trying to tell our Life Stories in 10 minutes. In one way it saddened me. To know, that at one time, our stories were being written together. Now… the stories are separate. In fact, even though Jason and I have kept in touch (mostly through Facebook), the wedding was the first time I met his bride.
Isn’t that Life.
You have your story. I have my story.
But, even in small moments, it is our story. And that is the greatest aspect of life I know. Each of us plays the role of protagonist in our lives. We forget that we are characters in other people’s stories. I was the English teacher, the coach, and for some of my students, something more. Jason and I spent hours playing basketball and talking about life. For each of my former students there was a unique aspect to our relationship. For example, I gave one student a quote every month for a year. I will admit to feeling a sense of pride knowing that those memories were part of their stories. To remember the good times and the rough times because we wrote that part together, just in different perspectives.
Even though our stories are now being written separately, it doesn’t mean that we didn’t play an important part in the past. Because isn’t that what makes a great story? Moments that are worth remembering. Stories that are retold. Being remembered by someone. Yes, you have your story. I have my story. But really this life is our story.