This Fourth of July seems a little bit heavier than I can remember in my adult life. There are so many clouds overhead and developing on the horizon that I’ve decided to take a break from the news and totally unplug for a few days. The result: I feel so much more grounded and I'm happier—not to be confused with blissful ignorance or callous indifference. I’ve realized that life is multidimensional and that so many realities and truths can coexist, but for me personally, I root myself in the traditions of my family. 

Our traditions are so much more than fireworks and casseroles. They are a comfort to my family, especially when times are tough or uncertain. We humans need something to which we can anchor ourselves, and traditions and rituals are the mooring posts of life. Familiarities are a comfort. I mentioned in my last note to you that my mother always ironed our sheets, and it’s something that I do as well. It’s also something that my sons have laughed at before; in this fast-click world, isn’t there something better to do with your time than iron sheets? But with them both home for the summer—miles away from their left-behind city apartments—I know they need these familiar comforts. Should I stop ironing them, they most certainly would take note—it would disrupt the sweet, predictable rhythm of our home life. After all, home is a place where you can hang your hat and know that it’s still in the same place you left it.

So, as I plan our July fourth gathering, knowing that this year will be very different and much smaller, I am conscious to preserve the traditions that I can. I am again reminded of my mother whose home was a gathering place for the family. No Christmas was complete without her pecan pie, and no summer party without her strawberry shortcake. As the matriarch of the family, everyone looked to her to set the tone. Her life was not without its own challenges but each day she got up, did her hair and make-up, dressed beautifully, and created a life-giving home full of warmth, memories, cherished traditions . . . and so much pie!

There was a time, I admit, in my youth when I had wondered if she had not reached her full potential, that perhaps she had “more to offer” the world. In my wisdom now, I realize that there is something beautiful about living in a smaller, shrunken world. She focused on the people closest to her, touching everyone’s life one cup of tea and slice of pie at a time. Now that we all find ourselves with our worlds a bit smaller, we can appreciate what really matters to us. So, this Fourth of July, I will be recreating the traditions that my sons and loved ones anchor to: the cherry pie, the whipped cream (or Cool Whip if you’re going retro), and all the happy traditions of my family and country—the red, the white, and the blue!