I used to think that my family had no traditions. My parents both grew up in North Carolina and moved out to California in their twenties, so my extended family is scattered all over, but mostly back on the east coast. I have maybe 2 memories of Christmases spent back there, but for the most part, major holidays like Thanksgiving, July 4th, etc. are a four-person affair.
I’ve figured out, however, that even with just the four of us, we do in fact have traditions, most involving food. Cinnamon rolls on Christmas morning. Southern barbeque and cajun gumbo at New Year’s. Deviled eggs on Easter Sunday. And in the summer, my mom and I go to the Orange County* Fair.
I spent about 15 minutes trying to explain to my dad what exactly is appealing about the fair. Prior to our conversation, he had a very one-sided perspective. “Don’t they have deep-fried twinkies, and deep-fried bacon-wrapped oreos at the fair?! That stuff’ll kill you!” He’s never been to any fair, and apparently has no desire. “What do you do? It’s hot, humid, crowded and dusty. I just don’t get it…” Yeah, when you put it that way, it sounds kind of like a low-budget theme park.
I tried to paint a picture for him.
“Well we eat…” He started to interject with the surgeon general’s warning about the bacon-wrapped oreos.
“…we eat TASTY things like roasted corn, street tacos, or gyros on pita bread, funnel cake with fresh strawberries. We look at the exhibits, they have paintings and photography…” The paintings from the local schools are always my favorite. Who knew teens were so talented?
“We go on the rides…” actually, we ride the ferris wheel, and not much else.
“We look at the exhibits on agriculture, where you see the winners for biggest summer squash, sweetest tomato…” (My mom insists.) “… and they usually have livestock, goats, chickens, sometimes horses.” (I insist.)
“It’s like a huge street fair, but with animals and rides. What’s not to like?!”
He mostly stared at me with a heavily furrowed brow, but finally, he says, “So it sounds like it’s about the experience. Kind of like how I enjoy watching movies for the sake of the overall experience.”
My dad is hopeless, but I love him still. “Yes, Dad, it’s about the experience.” So my mom and I did our thing at the fair, and had a great time. Our last weekend before the big drive, which will also be just me and my mom. It felt appropriate and oh-so-American.
Mother-daughter days in general are a tradition for us, and so even though it’s hard to be excited about spending 40 hours in a hot car, I know that our upcoming cross-country adventure will be one for the albums and archives.
*Here’s a bit of trivia: the city of Chapel Hill is part of Orange County in North Carolina. From one OC to the other. I just can’t get away.