by Margaret L. Turley
Traditions can bring part member families closer together and promote tolerance. In our church families and gospel activities are strongly encouraged. Sometimes pursuits that are not necessarily gospel related but shared by the family unit are best for opening opportunities to reach out to each other because the defensive barriers don’t automatically come up. I’d like to explore my experiences with some of these pastime interests and hobbies.
The path to a man’s heart is said to be through his stomach. Cooking is definitely one of the endeavors my immediate and extended family share. Love of food is evident to anyone that sees us – the majority of us are portly.
My Dutch Grandmother was an excellent cook that could whip up a scrumptious Thanksgiving feast using one kerosene burner stove. (A trick she learned during WWI & WWII.) She was widowed when her daughter was seventeen. She established a strong reputation for great quality cooking and catered to pay for my mother’s college educations.
My mother integrated her European heritage with the local Southwestern cuisine. Our home housed a bakery every weekend – turning out a dozen loaves of bread, cookies, cakes, cinnamon rolls and whatever else was desired along with functioning as a cannery during summer and fall.
Mom worked full-time as an elementary school teacher. I was the oldest of six, plus we had foster children in our home from the time I was nine years old until after I graduated from high school. Out of necessity I learned to cook more or less cafeteria style. My apprenticeship started when I was seven or eight taking on simple tasks that didn’t always turn out, on to cooking the evening meal for a household of thirteen every day during my senior year. I sometimes still flubbed – like the time I added ¼ cup of salt to the cookie dough, misreading the recipe that required ¼ tsp. We had a two year supply of oatmeal raisin cookies after I depleted my parent’s year supply of sugar, flour, and shortening trying to cover up my mistake. Thank heavens they were Dad’s favorite.
When my son and daughter reached their teen years I was working 12-hour days at the local hospital, giving music lessons to 20 students and doing part-time work at a home health agency. They decided to cook out of self defense. If they wanted to eat more that PBJ’s and cold cereal they had to cook the meals themselves a good share of the time. Sibling rivalry set up a competition between the two as to who could cook the most unique, eye-pleasing, best tasting, and desirable dishes. It was a pleasure to come home and find the table set and delicious edibles ready to go.
Now both my children are adults. My son married a wonderful woman who was raised in a family where cooking was a natural art. She is very talented in making gorgeous mouth watering meals. She is also an expert at making the available food stretch to match their shoe-string budget. Kevin still likes to cook and either takes his turn in the kitchen or works by her side for holiday family gatherings. Serena is attending the Scottsdale School of Culinary Arts. For years she’s watch Martha Stewart, Emriel, and other cooking shows, and tried new recipes from exotic cook books to everyone’s delight. When she is done she wants to open her own Vegan restaurant – I’d say she probably inherited the entrepreneurial spirit.
Another family occupation is music. My parents both loved music and some of my fondest memories are of going to sleep listening to Mom play the piano while Daddy sang. Each of my brothers and sisters learned to either play an instrument and or sing. We spent many evenings making music just for fun. I played flute in band and violin. I didn’t get to join orchestra until I went to college.
Because of my love for music, I taught my children how to play violin. As they grew older Kevin took viola lessons and Serena learned to play cello. We invited a friend to play with us and we had a quartet – whichever string instrument they played – it worked. We entertained on holidays and at wedding receptions. I volunteered my services to the school orchestra teacher and we joined the local community orchestras where we lived as a family. During those challenging adolescent years – music brought us together, including when my daughter decided to go with percussion in addition to, and then instead of strings. For a couple of years we drove four hours one way every other weekend for them to have lessons and participate in ensembles. It gave excellent opportunities for them to learn driving, and for us to bond. Neither one is making music their profession – but the memories we made together are special and everlasting.
Kevin’s wife, Laura is a lovely soprano. Both he and she have bachelor degrees to teach music. They are passing on music to their girls starting in the womb. My four year old granddaughter proudly demonstrated her piano playing when I visited at Thanksgiving. My 18 month old can keep rhythm and bounces along to any kind of tune with a beat. I’m sure that it will go on down through the ages. We may not produce any Mozarts – but it’s good enough to make it feel like heaven here on earth – even if the learning process isn’t always celestial.
The third custom is reading. Starting back with my grandparents reading is a trait our family enjoys. My Dutch grandmother only had a grade-school education – but she read voraciously. She provided herself with a college level knowledge in many subjects and could converse with anyone intelligently. My father’s parents both had college educations and were school teachers. My father and both his sisters and all their spouses became school teachers. In our family we read a lot. Cold winter nights we sat wrapped in quits around the wood stove reading classics. As children our parents read us Dr. Seus and fairytales every night. By the time we started school we all read on our own. Reading became an obsession for me and a couple of my brothers.
My children were raised the same way – I read to them or had them read to me. Both of them now read all the time on their own. We may not choose the same type of literature, but reading is a basic part of our daily lives that stimulates conversations on many topics.
For several years genealogy has been the craze around the world. My paternal grandmother was an avid genealogist. Their summer vacations were spent visiting relatives and doing genealogical research. My mother is serving her third mission in the Family History library. She has several relatives that share genealogy with her because they are excited to learn more about their ancestry – and they voluntarily give Mom permission to have their temple work done, even though they are not members of our church. My daughter has helped Mom with her family research. Now my son has caught the “bug”. He is seeking out ancestors from a completely different line that no one else cared to look into before. Yep Family History is a great tradition to share with your children and grandchildren.
I could go on for several more pages about traditions that help us weave a tight web of love, trust and concern for our family members – whether or not they belong to the church. I’m sure if you think about it – you’ll find things your family does that provide extraordinary experiences that knit you together throughout generations.
Margaret L. Turley