The leaves are turning, pumpkin scent is everywhere, the kitchens are busy, and families begin to gather. It is the time to pause for gratitude. This year we are especially grateful for family traditions.
Family traditions build cohesiveness through the generations, encourage interaction between the young and the old, build identity, grow understanding, trust and care, all of which hold the family together during the more difficult times.
B.F. McKay must have understood this when 90 years ago he bought a pine farm in the gentle mountains of southeast Oklahoma. Perhaps it was an investment he was seeking, but our legend tells of a man with the foresight to build a place for the family to gather, a place to fish, and to enjoy the peace and beauty of nature.
Many years ago, a dam caused most of the land to disappear under water, but about a third remains. Surrounded by water on three sides and a game preserve on the fourth, it is only accessible by boat. Our November tradition is to gather there, isolated from the world, mostly off the grid, and to share a few days with those who make the trek.
It is never an easy trip. Not a place to go for rest and relaxation. We camp on the top of a small mountain. No facilities, no running water, just nature and what we bring with us (which usually is more than we actually need).
This year 17 of us met for 4 days. We pitched our tents, cooked over an open fire, cleared fallen trees, played tag in the woods, repeated family stories around the campfire while eating smores. It is the perfect opportunity to reconnect, to consider the blessings and conveniences we have in our daily lives, and to build memories and create new stories to be told by the next generation.
If your family doesn’t have a tradition, perhaps you can start one now. It doesn’t have to be 4 days in the wilderness, just something to bring the generations together, build an identity, and create legends to be retold.