Tradition! (Writer’s Note – that first word should have been sung out – even if only in your head – akin to Fiddler on the Roof.  As it will reappear, make sure to follow this instruction as it will enhance your enjoyment of this post.  Thank you – the writer). We all have traditions weather the topic is family, food, entertainment, holidays, or singing out 1111 when it is 11:11. Something has taken on enhanced meaning because we have done it before and get some comfort or joy from the act. The behavior has become a tradition.

Today is Friday – (blog and calendar all for one low, low price), and I recently started a tradition. By the way, generally when I think of a tradition, I conjure something that’s been going on for years. The picture is black and white and grainy and includes people who are no longer young. Well, traditions have to start sometime. This tradition is a personal – not shared. The reason I bring this up today is because I am in a quandary: Do I let the tradition go by the wayside, or do I continue it?

I loooove chocolate! Now, it is not the only food I am passionate about, (pizza and peanut butter quickly spring to mind) but it truly holds a special place in my heart.  I am nearly convinced that chocolate can solve most problems – warm, cold, tired, or sad. Chocolate can do it all! It comes in so many different forms.  Magical stuff that chocolate is.

Now back to my tradition. The past few months I have taken to buying a chocolate bar for my ride home from work on Friday. I buy it before the first leg of my journey. The chocolate bar – Kit Kat, Peanut M&M, Snickers, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups Hershey’s Chocolate bar – whatever (I’m flexible – any will do) accompanies me on my 35 minute train ride, walk through NY Port Authority, and on to the 164 bus. As I near the end of my bus ride, I take out my chocolate bar and eat it slowly, savoring each bite. It is my good bye to the week’s stresses, and my hello to the weekend. It is divine.

Now, school is over. Summer is not so stressful, and I don’t take the bus and train. Do I need the chocolate? This morning while food shopping, I decided. I will be having my candy bar later today. The tradition must live on through the summer. Tradition!

It’s Funny – Right?

The other day someone told me they had a cancer scare. And I laughed. Wait, wait, wait. Before you judge me, I am not some insensitive beast. Really, I’m not. The woman was reading a piece she had written. She found a lump and was freaked out. The story focused primarily on the anxiety she faced while uncertain if it was malignant, and how the doctors completely lacked any bedside manner. Then, there was the medical staff who instructed her that she would have to wait weeks before even seeing the doctor. Maybe, you had to be there. I don’t know. But it was funny stuff – trust me. Hey, don’t judge. I’m not the only one who thinks anxiety is funny. Heck, Woody Allen has made a career out of this sort of thing!

I love the Three Stooges. I used to wake up early Sunday mornings to watch the fools. Well, early by teenage standards. I’d grab some breakfast, plop myself in front of the television, and turn to channel 29 at 10:00. Smacking faces, pulling hair, hitting heads together – more, more, more. Loved it! My father would come down the stairs, watch for a moment and then look at me. He’d turn up his face and ask, “What are you laughing at? What’s so funny?”

I did not appreciate his interruption. “Huh. I don’t know. It’s just funny.”

He’d turn to watch for another moment, imitate my cackling (that’ what he always called it), and mutter, “Why is it funny to see people hit each other?”

Why not? Many people loved the Stooges who, like Mr. Allen, had a long, successful, and lucrative career. It’s called slapstick. And I loved it. You liked it too, right? You got up early on Sunday mornings or flipped on the television as soon as you got home from school to watch the Stooges and laughed your ass off as they smacked each other around. Right?

“It’s not nice to laugh, Daddy,” SY reprimanded me. He had tripped, his arms went flailing and he said, “Oomph.” He was fine. Okay, he had a couple of little marks on his body but nothing earth shattering. There wasn’t even any blood. So, I laughed. You would have laughed too if you had seen it. Hilarious.

Look, I said in the “About” section that I laugh at weird times. I am not a masochist. I feel empathy. I wait until I see the person is fine…then, I laugh. Not weird, nothing wrong with that. This does not hearken back to some deep-seated issues. I’m fine. Really.

Very Manly, I Must Say.

Men, hide your women. Women – go into your homes and lock the doors. I am feeling virile.

Let me explain – I’m not necessarily the typical guy that you see pictured on Father’s day cards — I don’t own power tools, I don’t eat red meat (I don’t even own a barbecue), and I feel great indifference towards cars.

All that changed last Friday. My family and I were on the way to my sister-in-law’s house for the Sabbath when, all of a sudden, the car started making noises. At first, I thought it was another car on the road but then realized it was our own Honda Accord that was experiencing a malfunction.

When we got to our destination, I got down and looked under the car. That’s right, I did – damn it! Okay, so I was still in my suit and put a towel under me, but I still had a faint smell of grease on me afterward.

The next night, along with my brother-in-law, nephew, and I jacked up the car and took a look underneath. There was not much we could do. However,I had  to fix the car so that we could get home safely. So, I did. My fix — which included duct tape, McGyver-style — lasted until about two minutes into the drive home.

The next morning we were supposed to go to a pool party at my brother’s house, several hours away. After some research (thanks to my wife and Google) we determined that the culprit was the heat shield, and that it could be safely removed. So, once again I jacked up the car (on my own, thank you very much) and — with the proper tools — I removed the part.

I saved the day. My family and I were able to go on our road trip. Pretty manly, I’d say.

But wait, there’s more.

This past week, I got a power tool for father’s day. I really wanted it too. I now am the proud owner of a weed whacker. I look forward to using it and whacking some weeds. They’ll know whose boss after I’m done.

Then, there was yesterday. My neighbor and I rented a power washer. There was no stopping me. I cranked that sucker up so that the dirt and mold that had invaded the siding of my house didn’t stand a chance. No sir, not on my watch they didn’t. I pushed into bushes and climbed the ladder all in the name of cleansing my home. I even washed the car and cleaned up the oils that formed on the side walk. This is my castle, damn it.

I insisted my boys take a turn using the power washer despite their fear of the noise it was making and the vibration. After all, one day they will be men too, and I must prepare them.

So, how do I top off this manly feeling? I was thinking of grilling up a steak and watching Gladiator. Unga Bunga!

You Should Always Be Together

As they gathered around their aged and ailing mother, the sisters received a final piece of advice; you should always be together. The matriarch, my grandmother, my nanny, gave this directive to my mother and her sisters very shortly before her passing. This missive made a big impact on my mother and ultimately on us, her children. When it comes to her children, my mother is Perry Mason – never lost a case – always defends her clients. If I ever voice a complaint about my brothers, my mother will always end her impassioned defense with the following, “he means well.”  I shake my head and huff as I have not received my desired, “I understand.” My only comfort is that should one of them complain about me (yes, it is possible I have done wrong – hard as that may be to believe) they will receive the same response.

I always knew why my mother defended my siblings, but now as a parent, I understand. She wants us to get along, she wants us to be there for each other, she wants us to be friends.  When I see my two boys getting along and playing nicely with each other, I am thrilled and feel a sense of contentment – everything is right. No, it’s not just because I won’t have to hear whining or crying though that is an awesome benefit. I want them to be friends. I want them to build those bonds when they are young and for those bonds to grow as they get older.  Don’t we all want our children to be best friends with each other?

BR, my 8 year-old, is very much a big brother. He is dominant and can be moody – sometimes angry though more often generous and curious. SY, my 5 year-old who can be a bit whiny, is for the most part compliant and pleasant. SY will follow his brother pretty much anywhere, “I’ll do anything you want to do BR.”  He sits next to his big brother while BR plays computer games and cheers for him. If my wife or I call to BR for something which disturbs his all important video game, it is SY that tends to get angrier than BR (could just be that BR is much more adept at tuning his parents out) and tells us that BR is in the middle of a game. By the way, SY never even bothers playing the game.  The other day I asked BR do you ever let your little brother play. He said, “no, he never asks to play.”

“Do you ever ask him?”

He turned to him, “SY, do you want to play?”

“No, I just want to watch you.”

“See,” BR calls to me, “he doesn’t want to play.”

Sure there are those moments when it is best for all parties to have BR and SY in separate rooms, each with their own toys and television. However, in general, the boys get along. Yet, when other children get in the mix, the brotherly love often seems to fade into the background.  All of a sudden, they don’t have time for each other or don’t even want the other around. It is those times when the boys are part of a larger group that I as a parent want them to be there for each other even more. My wife and I have given both boys, particularly BR who is more capable of understanding, the lesson about having each other’s back. “Look out for each other,” we counsel.

I hope that the friendship that they already have for one another will continue to grow as they do. I hope that my wife and I have produced best friends or at least brothers who remember there is nothing like family. I wish that they will do just as nanny said – you should always be together.