TRADITION (for Marlene and Carol)

My parents used to host Thanksgiving dinner every year. We lived near my mother’s family so we saw them all the time (I really mean all the time). So, on Thanksgiving, we hosted all of my father’s family and that made the day novel and special. My father cooked. He was a much better cook than my mother, more creative (more garlic). I was the designated “taster”, the best job in the house. I got to sample every dish. It was a wonderful day and my cousins and I still send emails or cards to note the occasion. That tradition lasted for many years, in the same form with the same people.

When I was 18, my father was rushed to the hospital a couple of days before Thanksgiving.  We held our breath; the doctors were not especially hopeful. On the morning of Thanksgiving, my mother and I got word that he would make it.  That afternoon, the old tradition ended and we sat around his bed, unbelievably grateful, and ate skimpy roast beef sandwiches on white bread from the hospital cafeteria.

The old Thanksgiving tradition never came back. I don’t know why.

Tradition can be a ritual that is repeated and maintained in the present but has originated in the past (way in the past or just in your family’s past). The word “tradition” comes from the Latin word tradere or traderer, meaning to transmit or hand over. It becomes special because it is repeated and personal, maybe with the same food, the same people, or even the same clothes.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving. I hope it is filled with the best of the old and new.

What Do I Say? The Therapist’s Guide to Answering Client’s Questions with Charles Waehler, Ph.D., was published by John Wiley & Sons in May, 2011.  It is a friendly book designed to reduce the anxiety of early career therapists who may feel apprehensive about answering clients’ questions.  You can purchase it on

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