I was blessed to grow up around all of my grandparents. We all lived in the same small town. One set lived across the cow pasture, the other lived in 'town'. That meant that they lived on a paved road! Because of living so close, I got to spend a lot of time with them. As a kid, I took it for granted. I thought everybody could walk across the field and eat a second dinner or find sympathy when I was mad at my parents! Now I realize how truly lucky I was.
I wasn't raised with a lot of extra money laying around. My dad was an educator and my mom was a stay-home mom and then an aide at the school. I never really realized that we didn't have as much money as everybody else until I began to be a teenager. It didn't bother me much because I had what a lot of others didn't have. I had two parents who spent time with me and my siblings and that counted much more than what we 'had'. I also thought everybody else's parents were off the entire summer too! We spent days working in the garden and swimming and going camping and generally having fun but working hard.
One thing my family did better than anybody else I knew was celebrations. We celebrated everything. Birthdays, holidays, presidents day, you name it and we had a special meal for it! One of my grandpa's actually made a cannon to shoot off for Fourth of July! It was his favorite holiday and we had and still have a big family get-together. We no longer shoot bottle rockets at each other, that stopped when I was still a kid. I never could figure out why the grown-ups thought that was fun. Now, we play crazy party games and usually someone gets hurt and has to go to the doctor because they pulled something!
I carry on this tradition of celebration at my house by making special meals for just about any occasion. I read somewhere that families need traditions to stay together. Well, if that's true, my family will always be close! One of the most important days of our family's celebrations is Valentines Day and guess what? It's almost here!
I have not eaten out on Valentines Day since my son was born thirteen years ago. Finding a sitter was impossible, we didn't live close to family and the restaurants were expensive and busy! I just started cooking a special dinner. After my daughter was born, it began to take on a life of it's own. Now, we plan weeks in advance the menu and eat off the crystal and china. My son says he'll bring his dates here instead of eating out! He doesn't want to miss our special dinner!
This years dinner will be very similar to the last few years. The kids get to plan it and they have pretty much settled on this menu:
appetizer: shrimp cocktail
salad: tomato salad with olives, feta cheese and balsamic vinegrette
main course: grilled steak and baked potato (one year I cooked lobster tails but my son was so full by then he couldn't eat it!)
dessert: probably cherry cheesecake - this is still being negotiated! I'm voting for chocolate molten cake!
I buy fizzy grape juice to drink out of the fancy glasses and we eat by candlelight.
I fix everything in advance and have it served on fancy plates like in a restaurant so I can relax too! I put the grilled steak in the bottom of a crockpot on low and place the baked potatoes on top. The salads are pre-made and refridgerated so I just take them out.
I don't miss eating at a busy loud restaurant because at this restaurant quiet music is playing in the background and we can linger as long as we like. It's a memory I hope my kids remember all their lives!
I challenge you to start a tradition at your home, it doesn't have to be Valentines Day. Did you know in January there was a pie day? Well, guess who had pie? You may not have time to make a special dinner but you do have time to have a little something special. It may just be a cherry pie for Presidents day. But I warn you, once you start a tradition, you own it. You will be expected to continue! After all, that's what brings a family together!