3 Beloved Summer Traditions
As academic calendars wind down, college students across the nation prepare to return to their childhood homes for the summer. For many, this is a bittersweet feeling. While the prospect of breaking free of school responsibilities and seeing old friends again is exciting, it is also difficult to undergo these kinds of life transitions. Much of this difficulty sprouts from the reality that is having to move back in with one’s family. If you are somebody who finds yourself in this situation, dreading occupying the same space as your boorish parents and unenchanting siblings once again, then allow me to give you some advice so that you might make the most of your all-too short summer. Afterall, our time here is but a series of fleeting moments with no inherent value or purpose, and to fail to consciously recognize the beauty before us, to reason above experience, to think over feeling, is to let each passing second move us closer yet to death rather than further along the path of self-defined fulfillment.
One of the most common regrets of the dying is wishing that they had allowed themselves to be happier while alive and well, and to turn a deaf ear to this eternal advice is to do ourselves the greatest disservice or we will find once on our own deathbeds that we have robbed ourselves at every available chance the possibility of true living. I think we can all agree that that would not be the bee’s knees, as the youths are saying. So, in order to improve your substandard home life, here are three summer traditions that I like to do with my healthy and loving family. Maybe if you apply these to your life, you can grasp a fraction of the joy and blissful ignorance I possess!
- Gathering around for the pocket candies. Growing up, there was nothing my ambiguous number of identically beautiful siblings and I loved more than gathering around for the pocket candies. To this day, we still continue the tradition. Every summer, my great grandparents, who are so impossibly old that it seems God has granted them immortality specifically not to inconvenience me with the grief of a loss, come up from their scenic beachfront property in Los Angeles that they bought in 1892 for twenty marbles and a firm handshake, to visit us on the ranch. Being comfortably retired for literally over half their lives can get to be pretty boring sometimes, so they’re always excited to come see the rest of the family. It never gets old when Jacques drives us to the airport to meet Peepee and Poopee. They’ll get off the first class section of the plane (they ride free because my Poopee was good friends with the Wright brothers), and I’ll wrap them in a big hug as Jacques watches. The first thing we do when we get back to the ranch each year is pile into the second TV room and play “gather around for the pocket candies.” My Poopee will reach into his pockets and pull out these clumps of chalky, flaky, white hard candies stuck together with a bit of hand sweat that he carries around everywhere. He used to tell us this story about how one time he was trying to cross the border into Persia and an officer stopped him and asked for his passport. Realizing he forgot it, he instead produced a mass of the pocket candies and said: “I’m a trustable man,” and the officer let him through! Coincidentally, this is also how he got his job at The United Fruit Company. Anyways, he’ll toss the pocket candies into the air and my ballpark number of siblings and I will writhe around on the carpet trying to pick them up with our mouths like truffle pigs. Yum! An instant classic at summer family gatherings.
- Finding and catching the Cornish chicken so that it may be baked. What would a family be without food? Most likely pretty hungry, I’ll tell you that much! (My Uncle Sylvester shared this joke with me. He has lost fourteen thousand dollars in speculative investments since the beginning of this fiscal quarter.) We like to make our meals special, but the most specialist of them all occurs on the day of the summer solstice when we release a live Cornish chicken into the ranch home and chase it around until it is captured and boiled. My family celebrates the summer solstice not for any religious or cultural reasons but because it is necessary to maintain the predator and prey dynamic between human and Cornish chicken… lest they forget. Jacques will release the Cornish chicken on the fourth floor while we’re wearing blindfolds in the basement, passing the time by practicing four part choral harmonies for our family band. After thirty minutes, the hunt begins! It’s always a wonderful bonding experience sprinting down the great hall with a random aunt I have legitimately never seen before in my life, united in our purpose to acquire and roast the escaped creature. A little tip if you want to try finding and catching the Cornish chicken so that it may be baked with your own family, these are the locations I often search first: the cellar, the fountain, the billiard room, the spire, the situation room, and Jacque’s sleeping quarters. Checking the latter spot landed me an early victory last year. It was a hard squeeze fitting into the cabinet under the basement stairs, but once I snatched the squirming critter off of Jacques’ pillow, I exclaimed the customary victory shout: “Hurraw! Hooray! We shall feast on the beast to-day!” Being the victor, I naturally had the privilege of beheading the Cornish chicken. I remember it like it was yesterday. I brought the cleaver down swiftly and deftly, feeling the slight resistance of its outstretched neck push back against the blade. I watched its body twitch one final time, a pointless protest, its hot blood quickly turning cold in my fists. For being so small and black, you’d be surprised at how clearly you can see the vitality drain from a chicken’s eyes. There is so little that separates a living body from a corpse. But regardless of who beheads the Cornish chicken, we’re all winners in the end! One time a few years ago though, there was an incident where the Cornish chicken could not be found and there were no winners. We searched for two weeks but neither us nor the police nor the national guard could find it. Eventually we gave up, however a horrid, unbathéd stench began emanating from the elevator. We discovered that the Cornish chicken had crawled into the elevator shaft and died! Fooey! The smell was so unpleasant that we had to burn down the ranch and move into an identical one we had the company construct for us. Good times.
- Giving things to the babies to see what they shall Invent. During our extended family gatherings, and especially over the summer after the breeding season has concluded, there are a smattering of babies rolling about. As my step-nephew Topher likes to say, children are the future. (Topher edits homeless people out of photos taken for travel postcards.) This is why we try our best to foster their creativity by giving them things and observing what they Invent. Aunt Mayflower will lay several babies on the carpet in the West foyer and an approximate number of siblings, and I will encircle them and study their behavior. We progressively introduce new items into the baby sphere such as: an ashtray, castor oil, a stopwatch, a bushel of barley, and the acorn. Whenever a baby successfully combines separate units into a new module, such as one year when young Johannes created the humble vinegar-bleach, we celebrate by sliding them across the linoleum! Giggles galore! Once the babies have sufficiently Invented novel goods, they graduate to the garden bed behind the hedges where they will be placed to accumulate spores and help germinate the aubergines. The babies then explore the acreage unimpeded, warding off vermin and the like until the supper conch sounds. Celebrating the health and happiness of the family, from one generation to another. It’s all very beautiful.
Tradition is important, especially in ensuring one’s happiness when stuck with family for the summer. Hopefully these three wonderful rituals will bring a smile to your face and a spring to your step when trying to form a semblance of comfort in your brief, suboptimal lives. Just remember, your candle wick is always burning, and one day, it will run out. When it does, you’ll be wondering how long you had been ignoring the flame’s heat on your fingers. In those rare moments when grim realization creeps up behind you, when you feel your stomach plunge stories and a deep fear wraps its tendrils around your lungs so that you can’t breathe, savor it. Let your mind drift ever so slightly into the void, let the animal within you understand the infinities before and behind itself. Glimpse, if only momentary, the inconceivable slumber. Sit in it, sulk in it, wallow in the epiphany. Allow the thought to grow until it becomes too wide and spikey to fit inside the mind any longer, and feel it scurry through your ear back into the dark. When you return to reality, like snapping out of a daydream, look at yourself in the mirror and feel your reflection on your skin. It would be a shame to make anything less than the most of this. Safe travels and enjoy your break!
Cormac Abbey is a first-year television and digital media production major who can’t wait for this year’s family reunion. You can reach them at [email protected].
Art by Ruth Ayambem.