Welcome back! Last week, we talked about the Art of the Insult. If you missed that blog and would like to catch up, click HERE.

In the last two blogs, we have talked about grief, and how grief drives our responses to others. This week, we are going to talk about Traditions Lost.

The Governor of Oregon recently had to tell us that our summer festivities would not be happening this year. I can only speak from my own perspective on this, but I can imagine that there are others who will silently nod while reading my words.

David and I grew up in a small country town called Canby, Oregon. It’s a town that some say you can never leave. Many move away, only to come back as adults to raise their children, as they had been raised. A “Leave It To Beaver” society, complete with its own fishing hole.

Our town prides itself on “community“. We have many, many events throughout the summer, from block parties to farmers markets, kiddy parades, cruise-ins, outdoor movies, and concerts in the park we call “A Slice of Summer” where families come and throw down a blanket for the evening while their kids dance in the park to all kinds of genres. We have Bridging Cultures, a tulip festival, dahlia show, a three-day concert that is known far and wide called “Harefest” (80’s tribute bands), and of course, the much anticipated Clackamas County Fair, and the Independence Day celebration, complete with crafters booths, delicious food, a parade, and the day culminating in a fireworks display.

Growing up, the end of summer was signaled by the Clackamas County Fair. It was the place to be. You finished up your farm jobs, and headed straight for the fair, where you would meet your friends, eat corndogs and corn on the cob, ride the rides, visit the booths, and hang out for hours. Then you would transition to the rodeo and that would be the end of your day.

As I grew older, I started entering things in the fair. First, it was photography, then I was encouraged enough to enter a collection of glass shoes. The ladies would bring in their quilts and other handiwork, the children their lego masterpieces. There were pies and cakes to be judged along with paintings and sculptures. It wasn’t the ribbons that I wanted or needed, it was the sense of community; a sense of sharing.

I imagine the people performing musical acts and magic shows on center stage, and the youth showing their pigs and sheep felt much the same way. The ribbons didn’t matter. The sense of belonging did. This is your hometown. We are your tribe. It’s a part of who we are.

So what happens when that all gets stripped away? What happens when the Grinch, err, COVID-19, Steals Christmas?

Upon learning that many of our traditional events wouldn’t be happening this summer, one young lady posted, “My Nana and Papa would take me and my brother to the fair every year before my Nana passed away. Now I’m pregnant and wanted to go with my boyfriend this summer to show him all the amazing things but I can’t“. Her words really hit home with me. Tradition lost. Albeit, maybe just for this year, but it will be the first year since 1907 that our little town will have to cope with the fair being canceled.

The announcement that all festivals and concerts would be canceled, brought forth posts that stated how we were all feeling, “I’m crying“, “I’m depressed“, and “I’m just going to go to bed-wake me up when the crisis is over“. Disappointment, sadness, despair… a stage in that dreaded grieving cycle. Maybe even two stages. Overly dramatic? Maybe, but maybe not.

The question begs to be asked, what exactly are we losing when a tradition is snatched by circumstances? Is it simply a coveted blue ribbon? The Corn Dog? The Fireworks?

I would say no. It’s much more than that.

It’s the gift of time that “Nana and Papa” gave you, taking you to that fair. It’s the ability to recreate those memories, and then pass them on to your children. Our loved ones may have passed away, but those traditions will never leave us. Our family remains immortal as long as their traditions survive us. To lose a tradition feels as though we’ve lost our loved ones again.

Normally, traditions bring us comfort. Knowing at least one thing in our lives remains stable is huge, especially when we are in chaos and there are several moving parts. Being able to light a candle at dinner every night, or call our mama every Sunday just to say I love you, are all ways we ground ourselves in tradition. Our children watch us light those candles, or listen when you call their grandma, and they will repeat these actions when it’s their time to lead.

Maybe that’s how we will decide to cope. To focus on the little things that we still have control over, such as candles and phone calls. And… it’s ok to be sad.

At this writing, the Board of Directors for the County Fair have not made an announcement officially canceling the fair this year, but it’s expected to happen. Per the order, it will either be canceled, postponed, or significantly altered.

The “Grinch” has effectively stolen Christmas from the people of Canby, and that’s okay because our traditions don’t come in boxes and bags, they come from within our hearts, and just like the Who’s in Whoville, our little town will get through this. We will emotionally join hands, stand in a circle, and sing our song.

They can take away the celebrations, but they can’t take away our spirit of community.

Take that, COVID-19.

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