Monday, January 25, 2021

Memories come from the best traditions

January 22, 2001

Sometimes I wonder if people value tradition as much as they should. Think about it – traditions are what make the memories of events stand out. The constancy of the action makes the little differences obvious. I know I remember the Thanksgiving when we didn’t have turkey and the first time we had a pre-cut Christmas tree instead of one we cut ourselves.

Traditions don’t just have to apply to holidays and special events; they can be part of everyday routines. Maybe it’s a tradition for you to eat pizza every Friday or to walk a certain way from your dorm to class.

Every tradition is an aid to remembering the things that happened along with it. Like remembering all the great conversations you had with your friends over Friday pizzas or how the campus changed with the seasons on that same route to class every day.

My dad and I do lots of things together, and I love all of the things we do on our father-daughter bonding outings. But it’s not the activity that makes these times memorable, it’s the traditions involved with them.

Dad and I are creatures of habit. When we find something we like, we stick to it, and we do it the same way every time.

My father and I used to go to the hot air balloon festival in Battle Creek every year, even before we lived there. On at least one day during the weeklong festival, we would wake up before dawn to catch the 6 a.m launch. We trudged our folding lawn chairs from the parking lot to a location as close to the launch site as possible.

On a good day, we would watch the balloons go up, either watching them inflate in front of us or spotting them with binoculars as they flew into the site.

We always had the same conversations: what my father’s balloon would look like when he finally got it, how many years we’d seen this balloon or that, pointing out our favorites. We laughed at the same announcer making the same jokes year after year over funnel cake from our favorite vendor.

Once we were satisfied we had seen all there was to see, we checked out one of many booths at the festival selling collector pins. We would check out the selection and make mental notes to decide which one we would buy to add to our collection that year.

But the most important part of the tradition was the last part. After the launch and pin hunting, we would go out for breakfast. And not just anywhere – it had to be Denny’s. We would recount the launch and discuss what pilot was in the lead and Dad would tease me about my crooked teeth, saying every time the order-ready bell rang, it was detecting my “tusks.” Then we would drive home and I would fall asleep in the car – every time.

Our second-oldest tradition was purely a Jackson one. My father and I collect comic books. While I have all but abandoned the hobby now, I was once an Archie junkie. Nearly every Saturday while we lived in Jackson, Dad and I would make a trip to our favorite comic shop.

Nostalgia Ink was one of those stores you will never forget. It was a hole in the wall in downtown Jackson that made you feel perfectly comfortable browsing the boxes of comics for hours. And that is what Dad and I did.

While he browsed the plethora of superhero books, I went directly to the back left corner to the Archies. We spent hours examining each one, deciding which handful we would be going home with. It was our store, the place we wanted to be if we were anywhere else.

Once we managed to break ourselves from the friendly confines of Nostalgia Ink, we went home with our treasures. We told mom we saved her “big bucks” and spent the rest of the afternoon reading the newest additions to our massive collection.

After years of spending little time together (during my middle and high school years, go figure), my dad and I have a new tradition. And while it revolves around my favorite sport, the traditions make the game. Thanks to lackluster selling of student season tickets to Spartan hockey games, I managed to get my dad a series B pass. Now, every other home game, Dad and I get the opportunity to bond. And it didn’t take us long to come up with a ritual.

Dad usually rolls into East Lansing at 5 p.m. on game days so we have plenty of time to eat without missing opening faceoff. We head toward Okemos, usually ending up at Bennigan’s, or as Dad likes to call it, “our usual.” We stuff ourselves silly, I take half of my dinner away in a box, and we head to the game.

We park as close to Munn Ice Arena as possible in the parking lot in front of IM Sports-West. We usually get into the arena with about 20 minutes to go before faceoff. We circle the concourse at least once, checking out the merchandise at the booths. We make only one stop, at a 50/50 raffle booth to pick up two tickets each, one of which, of course, we’re convinced is really the winner this time.

After the first period, we meet near his seat and make our rounds around the concourse again, this time discussing the action in the first period. I talk about how cool my luxury box will be when I’m a rich alumna, and he always laughs at me the same way.

The second intermission is when the fun traditions start, though. We wait to hear who the winner of the raffle is, and when it’s not us, we have to console ourselves. The only way to do this, of course, is with an ice cream cookie sandwich. It is very important, however, that this treat is consumed in the second intermission, never before.

My dad and I have had some great times together, and I’ll always remember them. It’s because of the traditions we’ve created that these memories will stick with me. It’s the continuity of our actions that make each experience’s unique qualities stick out.

I wouldn’t trade balloon festivals, comic book Saturdays or hockey games with my dad for anything. Besides, how could I? It’s tradition.

Michonne L. Omo, State News opinion writer, can’t wait to start new traditions in a Munn Arena luxury box. Send her your traditions at omomicho@msu.edu.

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