Traditions define family identity

Tradition has a certain value that you usually don’t appreciate when you’re a child. Maybe your family went on the same vacation each year, or had the same meal on Christmas, but odds are none of it had any meaning until you grew up, or maybe when these traditions ended.

The death of a good tradition is not something that happens quickly. In a family, things generally change slowly. Children move away, babies are born, work gets to be too much and people die. All of these can contribute to the death of a tradition. It’s usually not until after they’ve ended that you realize why they were important or special.

In a family, it’s the eldest at the heart of these traditions. That yearly vacation was to grandma’s beach house in Jersey, and that Christmas meal was from Great Aunt Lucy’s old recipe. And maybe you never liked Great Aunt Lucy’s meatloaf that much, but now that you don’t have it, something feels missing. And it’s not just because Great Aunt Lucy isn’t sitting at the end of the table anymore.

But traditions don’t only exist within families; they can be just as powerful and important in other circles. When I first came to The Oswegonian during my freshman year, there was already a family in place, which meant there were already traditions. I was born, and became a part of a staff that, to me, felt like it had been there forever.

On Wednesday nights everyone would gather around the computer to watch videos of Andy Rooney struggling to open some venetian blinds, or complaining about the ballpoint pen; it was dubbed “Rooney Wednesday,” and everyone laughed a lot. We needed a few traditions to keep us sane on that night, and most of them revolved around food. Wednesday was also late night night, and most of the time, everyone was there until 1 a.m. or 2 a.m. There was also Mackin Wednesday and Cooper Thursday for dinner. On Thanksgiving we all got together for a dinner with our other family: The Oswegonian family.

After my first year with The Oswegonian, some people graduated or left and new faces took their places. The weekly routine stayed the same and I thought nothing of it. But the next year almost everybody graduated. I was left to mourn the end of a generation, while also celebrating the birth of the new.

The old staff seemed to me like the wise elders of The Oswegonian; the new staff members were toddlers crawling around the office. I had to show them how things worked and why they were important. Nobody knew each other well, and the closeness of the old staff was not                       there anymore.

I realized what was missing: it was the traditions. But not all the old traditions fit anymore. The new staff members did not have meal plans and nobody stayed as late on Wednesday nights. This was upsetting to me, and I felt a strange obligation to pass on the traditions of the past. So I found the ones that still fit. Oswegonian Thanksgiving continued on and we ended up struggling through plenty of late nights. But it was a strange thing to be one of the only people connecting the old staff to the new. Like generations of a family, they did not know each other but were all part of the same whole.

In my freshman year I never understood or even realized what traditions made life at The Oswegonian special. It was not until I became one of the oldest in the organization that the traditions of my younger years had any meaning.

Now that I am graduating in a month, it’s now my time to go from an Oswegonian elder to an ancestor. In my final months here I have spent more time than I ever expected trying to instill the traditions of the past into the youngest staff members. I hope that when they are in their final years, they also feel compelled to keep the memories of the past alive.