First posted HERE August 10, 2006
We just got back from our Annual Family Camping Trip. Words cannot express how much I love this camping trip with my family. I look forward to it every year. It’s seriously awesome!
The first year my dh came to the Annual Family Camping Trip (right after we were married), I remember him being a little disappointed in the whole experience. Not that he had a bad time, it just did not live up to the expectations I had set by my inability to stop raving about it for months beforehand. I just couldn’t understand why he couldn’t see it’s awesomeness!
That’s when I realized something. If you look at each years camping trip by itself, there is really nothing that special, awesome, or “super fun” about it. Some people might even call it dull. The scenery is not that pretty, the fishing is not that good, we don’t have a boat, there are yellowjackets galore. The list of un-ideal circumstances goes on and on.
But here’s the thing: my family has gone camping at the same spot, each summer, for 35 years. That’s right, 35 years. This family tradition began before I was even born! What started with a large family of 9 has now turned into an event for a huge family of 70. Each year’s camping experience is a compilation of memories from past years. That’s why it’s so awesome. And that is why nobody really “gets” it their first year–or even their second, third, or fourth.
Every year we tell the story of when “B”(now 28 yrs old) almost rode her big wheel of the cliff and her uncle “J” grabbed her just in the nick of time or when all the kids got lost on the Turkey Trail (actually this has happened numerous times). Or when “A” got a tick in his head or when “E” locked himself in the portapotty, or when “K” ran all the way from town into the campground (now, long-distance running at camp has become a tradition itself), or when we held a proper burial for our family’s old canvas tent after a night of pouring rain. There are 35 years of memories at that old, not-so-ideal campground. Every once in a while, we talk about changing the venue for our family camping trip to somwhere “nicer” but that discussion never lasts very long. We go camping at the same spot because we have always gone to the same spot and no other place would ever be the same.
I want so much for my kids to have the same memories of camping with the family that I have. I don’t want to just pass on the memories in writing or words. I want them to experience it and be part of it. I want them to know it for themselves.
I think this is the essence of tradition. There is something comforting(?), beautiful(?), amazing(?) about seeing my daughter play in the same dirt, walk on the same trails, and interact with her cousins the same way I did when I was her age (except I didn’t play with my cousins, I played with my nieces and nephews who were my same age. What can I say–that’s what can happen in some big mormon families!).
I appreciate so much the hard work my parents put into keeping this family tradition alive (especially now that I realize how hard it is camping with a baby) and the continued efforts of my brothers and sisters who have now taken over the coordination of the event. And when they completely peeter out, I am confident that the next generation will be ready to carry it on because we all know that it’s totally worth the effort.
Moral: 35 year old family traditions don’t happen without hard work and sacrafice by all family members. I think it’s really hard to see the true value of a tradition when it’s still in it’s early years, but all the effort pays off a hundred fold down the road. So, support your extended family traditions today! Or, start a family tradition of your own!
Update 2007: Reading around the blogs today, I stumbled across a few people speaking about their own family gatherings (and how they are miserable) and I realized I have one more thing to appreciative of: My family actually gets along (for the most part). We really do like being together. I think I can sometimes take this for granted but now I have been reminded that I am really lucky.
So, if you can’t relate to a long-weekend of camping with your extended family because you would rather get a root canal than deal with said family, sharing bathrooms, food and chores in the dirt, focus on beginning some special family traditions with your immediate family. Because who knoes, maybe 35 years down the road, you actually might still like to hang out together. It could happen!