How are traditions born? Are they carefully thought out and crafted or do they happen organically? Or accidentally, even? A piece of jewelry that is passed on, an article of clothing that is worn, a secret recipe that is cooked lovingly. A gathering of family or friends that happens once a year, once a decade. A new year, a birthday, a holiday, an anniversary.
I’ve been thinking a lot about traditions lately as my husband and I just celebrated another anniversary. When we got married four years ago, we didn’t expect any particular traditions to come out of that day. In fact, we didn’t even expect that January 25th would be the day that we celebrated as our anniversary each year. We rented out a beach house in Newport Beach, CA and sent an open invitation to our family and friends to join us to celebrate. When our favorite vendors at the farmer’s market heard we were getting married that weekend they sent us home with crates of fresh strawberries that we fashioned into drinks and fresh flowers that my best friend made into a bouquet and flower crown. We set out blankets in the sand and when the time came, my dad walked me down our makeshift aisle. Both of our moms read poems we selected. Anthony gave me the wedding rings his grandmother passed on to him, I danced barefoot in the white dress my grandmother wore to my aunt’s wedding. We were surrounded by some of our favorite people. We ate, we danced, we laughed. It was perfect.
It was intended to be the lighthearted prequel to a bigger, more formal wedding we were planning back on the east coast later in the year, but a couple months into our marriage we found out that we were expecting Noelani. We took the curveball in stride; our wedding invitation list turned in to a baby shower invitation list. Twice that year we would return to that beach where we got married: once to find out if we were having a boy or a girl and once to celebrate our anniversary, which happened to fall one day after Noelani’s one month check up and our green light to travel from DC back to California.
I thought it would be fun to get dressed in our wedding clothes again and go back to that spot in the sand where we stood just one year before. One year of marriage that passed so quickly yet seemed like a lifetime. At that time parenting was so new to us. To be honest, marriage was too. We took some photos of each other holding this brand new person we made. Strangers passed by and congratulated us, volunteering to take our photo and asking if we got married that day. We decided then that each year on our wedding anniversary we would get dressed up in our wedding clothes and document the day together.
January 25, 2014. Newport Beach, CA. The day we said “I do,” when we had no idea what the following year would hold: our first year of marriage, my first time growing and birthing a person.
January 25, 2015. Newport Beach, CA. Embarking on our second year of marriage together, and our first full year of parenthood. This would be the year we decided it was best if our family was together in the same place, even if it meant giving up things in training and career.
January 25, 2016. Clearwater Beach, FL. This would be the first full year we lived together as a family. We would get setbacks again in terms of training and fellowship, but doors would also open to job opportunities we never even considered.
January 25, 2017. San Diego, CA. This anniversary was the first trip Anthony and I took alone since Noelani’s arrival. Just a couple weeks prior we found out that we would be growing our family again. We hadn’t told anyone else at this point, not even our families, and we savored those few weeks where just we knew about the excitement the coming months would bring.
January 25, 2018. Austin, TX. This would mark the start of our first full year as a family of four. I have no idea what sorts of challenges the year might hold personally and professionally, but I know we will flow with whatever comes our way.
I look at the photos we have taken on this day over the years and on the surface the differences are obvious: my hair is a little bit shorter, Anthony’s hair is a little bit longer, we are both a little more tired and our family is growing in number and size. But beyond that I see how much these few short years have changed us. Anthony and I love each other today even more than we did that day, and out of that love we made two little people who we love in ways unimaginable. Noelani is growing into her own person and has opinions about everything from what she should wear today to how mommy and daddy should comfort baby sister. She is fiercely independent when she wants to help make dinner or build a tower, but will still crawl into your lap and cuddle when it’s time to fall asleep. Niara gives the gummiest smiles to anyone who offers one to her. She still prefers to be held but is starting to discover new things like toys or her feet. I look at our little family of four and, even with all the unexpected things that have popped up along the way, I want to pinch myself at how happy this life is.
On this anniversary, I think back to our wedding day and the words by Khalil Gibran that my mother read during our ceremony: “And think not you can direct the course of love, for love, if it finds you worthy, directs your course. ” Indeed, the life we are living today is not exactly what we planned. It’s far better and more amazing than we could have planned or even dreamed. And all because we trusted in love to direct our course.
Traditions are beautiful like that: they give us a sense of consistency, a connection to our past, even as the world around us, and we ourselves, are growing, changing, transforming in sometimes unpredictable or subtle or life-altering ways.
Now, as the mother of daughters, I wonder what traditions they will take from us and carry on. I wonder if either one of them will someday want to wear Anthony’s grandmother’s rings or my grandmother’s dress. Will they think this tradition of taking photos on our anniversary is silly? When January 25th rolls around each year will they be excited to come together in this way or roll their eyes and ask, “Do we really have to do this?” Either way I hope to carry on this tradition for as long as they indulge me, or as long as my wedding dress still fits, whichever is longer.