Can We Make It New Again?

Oct
08
by Christine

Last year as my mother's life was ending, my son's marriage of 12 years was ending too. I have not blogged about my son's divorce for various reasons but I will say our entire family grieved over the death of his marriage. Sadness is and was the main emotion surrounding that milestone. Today I watch with pride and in awe as he successfully cares for and nurtures his children. He is doing a good job.

Even though I am 20 years older than Matthew, we share a similar experience at this time of our lives. For each of us, one life chapter ended and another one began. Beginning anew required us to learn new skills and to think about our lives differently. Matthew is working to build a family for his children that don't include Mom and Dad sitting down together at the dinner table every evening. I am working to build family traditions as the matriarch instead of looking to my mother to do it. These are creative times for us.  

Last night Matthew and I talked about how to create something new as opposed to crafting a pale imitation of what you lost. After my father died our family attempted to host Christmas as we had in the past. Sadly, my father's enthusiasm for celebrating a family Christmas was the spark that enlivened our holiday festivities. Without my father, the holiday became a shadow of what it once was and mom was resistant to change. Our guilt inducing conversations went something like, "Can you "take" Mom for Thanksgiving and I will take her for Christmas?"  A sad reflection on how untethered our family was at the time.  

If you want to see how others create the new out of the ashes of the old, look to the world of art. Working artists strive to produce music, paintings or dance that evolves and grows as their skills evolves and grow. Pablo Picasso, probably the 20th century's most famous artist, moved from the Blue Period to the Rose Period to an African-influenced Period to Cubism using his extraordinary talent to build upon each period but creating something entirely new in each period.  While Picasso appreciated the art of Toulouse-Lautrec, Manet or Degas, his goal was not to imitate them but to bring about his own vision.  

After Matthew's divorce, he put the artist mindset to play in his home. When you enter his house, on the right, is a small room the builder intended to be a formal living room. During Matthew's marriage this room was only used once a year; an adult Christmas tree was put up while the "kids" tree was in the family room but the rest of the year, no on used the room. After his divorce, he was looking at how to use each room effectively and I suggested he set up a home office in the living room. I described how businessmen, lawyers and doctors in the early 20th Century used their "front parlors" as their place of business and I thought this set up would be much the same for him. Matthew loved the idea and ran with the concept. Pictures of the kids and other personal memorabilia decorate his office and it is a place for him to pay bills or work if he has to stay home with a sick kid. Also, the kids can use the family computer and printer for school projects without the distractions that were common in the family room.  Same room, different function, new life. 

As life changes, I move to change too. I believe it's important to cherish and hold on to traditions that enrich how I live but it is equally important to let go of traditions that weigh down the family. Maybe our family tradition is that we change up our traditions as we age. What about you? Are there any traditions or patterns in your life that you need or want to let go of? Or have you already done that? If so, how did you do it?

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