Remember the first time you started a diary? Maybe you were 10 or 13 and you had that quaint little book with the special lock and key. Oh the stories you would write; that cute boy who kept looking at you in the cafeteria. Remember what the lunch ladies were serving that day? Whatever it was, I’m sure you still get a quick flashback whenever you eat the same thing today.
You could do the same thing now – this very minute. It would be a loving way to hand down all those thoughts, memories, traditions and recipes to your children and loved ones.
I t doesn’t matter where you’re from or where you live. It doesn’t matter if you have one child or ten children or if you have any children at all. You could do this for yourself and for other family members. Keeping a diary of one’s history is a way to celebrate family, tradition and culture, from generation to generation.
Most families have their own particular way of celebrating holidays, special occasions, or just everyday life. You do things a certain way, you take pictures; you keep cards and mementos and prepare foods that everyone enjoys and relates to in certain times in your life.
Do you remember your mother’s favorite dish to prepare? The one you always asked her to make? Can you prepare it? Do you remember that one special time when she made your favorite dish? Was it your birthday? Your graduation? Your wedding?
In Mexican American tradition (old school), most recipes weren’t written down. As children, we observed, tasted and relished the final outcome. Years later we remember when Abuelo Paco celebrated his 90th birthday and the whole family was there, all 200 of them.
Everyone brought his or her favorite dish. Your mom prepared her delicious tequila marinated brisket and your grandmother (your Abuelita) made her melt in your mouth biscochos, except you had to roll out the dough and cut out the cookies because her arthritis was bothering her. Your uncles prepared salsa, margaritas, chile con queso and calabasitas (squash). Your tias (aunts) made macaroni salad, chile verde and chile colorado – American style, because, after all, we are living in the US of A.
Tears fill out eyes and there’s a gentle heaviness in our hearts. We remember, so we decide to celebrate again by preparing those same dishes that were made on such a special occasion with a lot of love and caring.
The years pass by quickly and sometimes we forget until for some reason or another we start rummaging through an old photo box. Suddenly your hear the sound of the mariachis playing “Las Mananitas” for Abuelo Paco. You picture Tia in that funky blue dress with all the sequins, the one that made her feel like a prom queen. Before you know it, you can actually smell the salsa, the brisket, the margaritas and the Mexican beers. You just can’t get over how you haven’t thought about that particular day in years. And of course, this bubbles up other forgotten memories.
You promise yourself you’ll never forget them again and that you’ll tell your kids or your husband or your best friend about those wonderful times. But life goes on. The stories and those special recipes are never shared. Perhaps it’s time to do something about that.
Promise yourself to make time, 15 or 30 minutes a day or every other day, whatever time you can spare, to record those memories and recipes – diary style. Do as much or as little as you want. But do it. You don’t need to find a publisher to leave a legacy for your family. You can do it yourself. As elaborate or as simple as you want. I promise you that when your kids open up that journal and start reading, the same feelings and emotions that ran through you remembering Abuelo Paco will be tugging at their heartstrings. Celebrate your family through the generations. Enjoy the moments and record the history.