Fall Traditions Military Family-style
Did you grow up in a place where autumn meant crisp air, brightly colored leaves and pumpkin patches? Boots, sweaters, football, pot roasts and cider?
Well, chances are, if you married someone in the military, you’ve lived in places where your long-held seasonal traditions don’t exactly match the geographic location or weather.
And it can totally mess up your rhythm.
Trying to fit your autumn traditions into your current duty station’s culture can seem like trying to jam a square peg in a round hole.
You wait all year for the first signs of autumn. Spider webs greet you every time you walk out the front door, pumpkin spiced everything fills your kitchen and you start planning that traditional fall family outing to the pumpkin patch.
Except that the military sent you to San Diego and it’s 80 degrees outside. And right next to the I-5 on-ramp is a large sign, beckoning you to a corn maze and pumpkin patch. Wedged between whizzing traffic and a car dealership. Hmmm. Decisions.
Your gut tells you it’s a sham. A whisper in your ear tells you to just go to the beach. Forget fall traditions and go with the weather and beachy location. But your sense of tradition is stronger and you are determined for your kids to experience “fall” so you cave. You fork over $45 for entrance into the corn maze and 5 pumpkins to take home.
And then somewhere between another dead-end inside the wilted, dried up corn stalks (#drought), you gaze up at the freeway and then down to your flip-flops and realize it was all a mistake.
This was no substitute for a true farm experience, the kind you know exist in other states (and in CA, but a little further from I-5). The kind where you ride in a tractor out to the pumpkin patch, trudge through mud and actually look forward to the hot cider and kettle corn on the way out instead of craving an iced latte.
You should have listened to the whisper and gone to the beach already.
The lesson here is this: Each duty station has its unique offerings. If you can let go of pre-determined fall traditions and embrace your locale, the happier you’ll be. It’s easier said than done, of course. I want my kids’ memories to include farm visits, apple picking, pumpkin patches and jack-o-lantern carving. All of you in even remotely tropical zones know that unless the pumpkins are carved on October 30th, they’ll be a moldy mess by Halloween.
Changing my attitude about traditions has opened our family’s eyes to the beauty of traveling, military-style. And if I can get over it, I know my kids can too.
Once we embraced our current location and let go of traditions, we found freedom and fun. Instead of swimming upstream, we jumped on a wave and rode it into shore. Literally. And we sure didn’t hear the kids complaining about surfing on Thanksgiving. They don’t need to know that’s not “normal”.
Collecting traditions from all over the globe is one of the things that makes military life special. Being open to new local cultures is a thousand times better than trying to force pre-determined traditions on your current location.
So, this year? I’m skipping the I-5 corn maze. I’m keeping the beach chairs in the back of the car because the gift of our duty station is the expansive Pacific Ocean and beautiful sandy beach.
And I’m not even sorry.