Monday, October 22, 2012

The old and the new


I love family traditions. Growing up in Malaysia, I had many with my extended family. From Chinese New Year’s Eve dinners to Deepavali celebrations at my grandparents’, there were a few occasions I could always count on like a comforting lovey that goes to bed with my girls every night - predictable, important, and wonderful.

Now that I have a family of my own, the past four years gave us many important and wonderful occasions, but we have yet to find one that we could easily identify as a family tradition. Our holidays have not achieved a pattern as we’ve spent the last few at different locations, with different people. This year, we still haven’t figured out our plans for Thanksgiving and Christmas.

That our major holidays are not settled is, naturally, a little unsettling. But at least we’re not entirely void of traditions. I realized that yesterday, when we went to our favorite apple orchard for our annual Fall celebration. This time, we picked pumpkins instead of apples because of a draught that decimated most of the apple harvest this year, but regardless of our reasons for being there, it was an event we all looked forward to each year.

I recall writing about our first trip with Little Miss, and we’ve been back there twice since. I remember feeling so proud of Little Miss for braving the moo-choo train on her own, as she wasn’t even two when she was the only toddler on the train without an accompanying parent as it traveled around the glistening apple trees before coming back to the “station” to find us still standing there, waving with one hand and a camera phone in the other.

Last year, Thumper was a wee three-month-old when we visited the orchard, which means she mostly stayed in the stroller or my arms. This year, however, she was everywhere. Like her sister, she would never be content unless she was moving , exploring, and exclaiming, “Truck!” (actually, it was a tractor), “Baa” at the goats, and “Eat!” when she saw the freshly made apple cider donuts. This apple didn’t fall too far from this tree, that’s for sure.


We walked around a corn maze, we picked one pumpkin from a sea of orange, and we petted farm animals. Just like we did the years before. And in keeping with our tradition, we saved their favorite for last: the moo-choo train.


Little Miss was tasked with the very important job of holding her little sister on her lap. Thumper, at nearly 17 months is part-monkey, as you may know, so we feared she’d climb out of her seat. She liked climbing out of bath tubs, plus she climbs up and seats herself on her high chair – there’s no certainty of what she would do once she disappeared from our view on the train.

MooChooYes, I picked the cow named “Bossy” on purpose.

I was also a little hesitant in handing such a responsibility to Little Miss, a mere three-year-old (although she’d insist, “I’m going to be four in a few weeks!”). However, I was also hoping that the new scenery and the thrilling experience of being on a little moo-choo would be a distraction from Thumper’s sneaky moves.

Thankfully, my theory prevailed. Both girls made it back safely into our arms, and now we have more pictures to add to our favorite annual Fall tradition. What’s more remarkable is that even though Little Miss had been on that train twice on her own and was looking forward to the ride again this year, she made space for her little sister without uttering a single protest. It seemed like she expected it. Like it was only natural.

Perhaps someday she may even forget that she once experienced a life all by herself, never having to compromise, never having to share. The same way, four years after the birth of my firstborn, I can’t imagine my life any other way.

Our family of four has seen our share of hardships. I’ve lost many of my own childhood traditions after I moved here, and going from living independently to living with people who are sometimes entirely dependent on you are difficult adjustments to make. But we all do what we can and what we must to accommodate these changes.

While I remember lighting my own firecrackers to welcome the Lunar New Year, I now look forward to decorating our Christmas tree with the girls while Burl Ives sings about a certain reindeer in the background. We make new traditions.

And sometimes, we make room for all the things we never thought we had space for, yet we eventually find that we do. The new weaves itself around the old, the exciting with the familiar.

Until someday, we can’t imagine it any other way.