When stressed or overwhelmed I seek the things that provide familiarity. Traditions that stir warm childhood memories.

My dad's cooking.

A secret spot to clear your mind. (Yuba River, Nevada City, CA)

What provides me the most comfort are the small traditions gathered throughout my whole life. Most of these traditions were not planned or marked on the calendar.

As a child art supplies were always available. After a particularly bad day at school I would hole up in my room and spill the bottled up contents of my day onto the paper. As an adult many of the same supplies–pencils, pens, and paint–are still close at hand.  About once a month I return to this escape and shut off communication to the world for an “art evening.”

Music. Pencils. Paper.

I recently spent a Saturday afternoon at Pompano Beach with my sister and her boys. As we walked along the shore we reminisced about our trips to the same beach when we were young. Nearly every Sunday for over 10 years we would wake up, pack the cooler, and head to Lighthouse Point or Pompano Beach. We recalled our Sunday trips to the beach as perhaps the most stress-free moments of our entire childhood. Shell hunting, castle building, and chasing gulls are a few of my most cherished traditions.

Nephew's muddy bucket.

Sister's shells.

Treasure found. (Visby, Sweden)

Some traditions are just as good alone.

A favorite meal at a favorite restaurant.

With others it’s best to have friend or family along.

Getting lost in a foreign bus station.

– – – – –

As each family grows it is impossible to say which traditions will influence a life the most. Moments fall away from memory leaving the dependable experiences which always seem to be skirting the horizon, like a song sung each morning upon awaking, or Tom Brokaw’s voice introducing the evening news.

I can’t remember all the family vacations I took, and there’s a few I would rather not remember. Yet some memories–the smell of Saturday morning blueberry pancakes, playing in the woods with my sisters, and cracking peanuts with my mom in the bleachers at a Marlin’s game–are forever in the forefront of my heart.

With so much unknown surrounding the lasting impressions on young children’s lives, the best we can strive for is to be dependable in love, kindness, and honesty. If we meet these standards in the repetitive cycles of our years, even the smallest moments are sure to bear wonderful traditions.

© Jonathan Iris-Wilbanks and Sunflower Creative Arts, 2012
Photos © Jonathan Iris-Wilbanks, Joy Iris-Wilbanks and Sunflower Creative Arts, 2012