Although I’m from what I consider a traditional family – – mom, dad, house in the suburbs, 2.5 children (my younger brother was born without his right-side, it’s not something we generally talk about), we didn’t have many traditions when I was growing up and we have even fewer now. We tried to incorporate some into our lives, but most never stuck. For instance, we used to have Thanksgiving dinner at our house. Then came the year that my mom’s parents had moved to Florida and my dad’s folks were doing something that was clearly more important than creating lasting holiday memories with their grandchildren.
Preparing an entire Thanksgiving dinner for the four-and-a-half of us seemed like a lot of work, not to mention the mess it would generate. I think it was my mom who suggested that we go to the beach and have a weenie-roast instead. That first beach Thanksgiving was pretty great; it was cold and cloudy and we had the entire beach to ourselves. We ate hot dogs (turkey hot dogs, of course) that we’d cooked over the fire, and tried to cook potatoes by wrapping them in foil and dropping them into the hot ashes and embers. What we ended up with, however, was tinfoil packets filled with the remains of incinerated potatoes. Oh how we laughed at that, just like the families in the TV commercials.
We had such a good time that we decided this was how we would spend every Thanksgiving – no muss, no fuss and burn whatever you don’t feel like cleaning up. It was the ability to burn things that caused the trouble. My younger brother, Lefty (never call him that to his face!) was, and still is, a bit too enamored by fire (remind me someday to tell you about the time he set the bathtub on fire). He’ll toss anything into a fire to see if it will burn, and on our second beach Thanksgiving, that included an unopened can of Mountain Dew. Have you ever been showered in scalding soda? It’s fairly unpleasant.
For those of you taking notes, cremated potatoes = happy family memory, exploding Mountain Dew = sticky, citrus-y second degree burns.
There were occasions, like the beach Thanksgiving, that we did a couple of times before figuring out that having fun the first time, doesn’t mean it will be fun every time. Certain things are better left as a one-time event. There were also things we did when we were younger that grew proportionately less enjoyable the older we got. Apparently a couple of ‘tweens fighting over who’s on someone else’s side in the back of the station wagon isn’t as adorable as toddlers having a Cheerio battle back there; so the summer drives up the California coast were eventually eliminated from our repertoire of family fun-time.
But there is one thing we’ve done for years and continue to do: none of us get on a plane unless we, or someone we’re flying with, has The Traveling Jesus.
My grandfather used to send donations to the The Monks of The Round Table or some such thing, and they expressed their gratitude by sending him various pictures and prayer cards featuring Flaming Jesus. He didn’t become The Traveling Jesus until after my grandpa died, but according to family lore, grandpa still had a hand in what would become our tradition.
Apparently, just before he died, my grandfather sent in his regular donation. After he was gone, my mom was in Florida helping my Grandma with paperwork, donating his clothes, deciding what to keep, etc. One day there was a knock at the door and it was the postman with a manila envelope that wouldn’t fit in the mailbox. As Grandma was opening it, something crashed in the bedroom. She and my mom went to investigate and found that a framed Heart-O-Christ had fallen off the wall and knocked over the picture of Grandpa on the dresser. After putting everything right, my grandma finally opened the envelope, and inside were the Jesus pictures from my grandpa’s final donation.
Tres spooky, no?
The details are a little fuzzy on how Grandpa Poltergeist knocking over pictures meant we were taking chances if we flew without the Fiery Savior. But I think what happened is that when my mom came home from Florida, she had a couple of the pictures with her and the plane didn’t crash. Ipso facto, the Burning Heart of Jesus keeps planes in the air; and anyone who flies without one is taking chances with their life and the lives of every other person on the plane. So if you’ve ever flown with any of us, you’re welcome.