Mamacita asks: Where do these family traditions get started?
Remember that anecdote about the young bride whose husband asked her why she cut the beef roast in half before she put it in the pan?
She told him she did it that way because her mother always did it that way.
So the young husband asked his mother-in-law why she had always cut the beef roast in half before she put it in the pan. Her reply? She did it that way because HER mother had always done it that way.
At the next family dinner, the husband asked his wife’s grandmother why she had always cut the beef roast in half before putting it in the pan. Her reply? Because her mother had always done it that way.
His wife’s great-grandmother was still alive, so he went to the nursing home and asked her why she always cut the beef roast in half before putting it in the pan. Her reply?
“I only had the one small pan, and the only way a roast would fit in it was if it was first cut into two pieces.”
When my children visit, I often think of this story. I don’t know if it’s true or not, but it might as well be, because so many of the things we do make no sense except in the context of the past.
Both of my children love grilled cheese sandwiches. I mean, who doesn’t? Secondly, neither of my children will touch a grilled cheese sandwich unless it is made with Velveeta.
Thirdly, and most importantly, I can grant these wishes because A. I won’t eat a grilled cheese sandwich unless it was made with Velveeta, either, and B. Velveeta is a name brand food I can actually AFFORD!
When my son visits, he often requests grilled cheese sandwiches the minute he enters the house. When he was a little boy, the only way he could eat a grilled cheese sandwich was if I mashed it down flat with the spatula after the Velveeta had melted. THEN his little mouth could close around it, and he could eat the sandwich “like a man.”
He’s an adult now, but he still wants his grilled cheese sandwiches flattened with the spatula. Why? Because that’s how his mother always made them.
When he gets married, I can’t wait to hear his wife’s reaction when he asks her to mash a perfectly good sandwich flat. Will she question it, or just do it?
Sometimes, family traditions have serious beginnings and funny middles. As for the endings, there aren’t any, not really.
(Rerun. You’re not crazy. At least, not on this account.)