Photo Credit: Courtesy of Alicia Keys
Lately, with the holidays around the corner and with my son Egypt coming to an age of greater awareness, I've been thinking about what our family traditions are and how to make the most of them.
When I was growing up, my mother and I weren't very religious but we were certainly spiritual. Thanksgiving was always a tradition filled with family and great gratitude, while Christmas was filled with spirit and celebration. When the holiday came around, my mother and I would go out to 43rd Street between 9th and 10th Avenues in search of the perfect little tree. We’d bring it home and decorate it with all these old ornaments I had made through the years, then we’d string the lights and add tinsel.
I remember drinking eggnog and listening to classic Christmas songs while feeling a real joy and peace during this time. At the end of each day, there’s nothing better than knowing I have a wonderful family waiting for me to come home. As I'm working through the day, it's my family that pushes me through it so I can race home ;-).
Family has played a huge part in my life and even though I never grew up with a large family, my core group has served as my foundation and security. Now as a mother too, I can see the child in me come to life again as I re-learn the same lessons I once heard with my son. And in so many ways, it feels like I’m hearing them for the first time.
The relationships I hold so dear today have provided me with clarity, inspiration and sound judgment when I needed guidance along the way. About five years ago, I found myself in a place of darkness… I felt like I was drowning. I was overworked, exhausted, and my grandmother -- my rock -- was very sick. I felt like I was playing a game with myself just to make it through each day. I was hiding and my soul was undernourished. It was the first time in my life I had felt such an overwhelming sadness.
To clear my mind and heal, I took a trip to Egypt. While I was there, I opened my mind to all the beautiful things around me: the rich traditions and vibrant culture. The temples, the tombs, the faith, the sound of droning prayers over loud speakers at 6 a.m. And as I found myself lost in the middle of this new world, I was enraptured by the traditions and gorgeous history.
With every step I took, I began to realize I could hear myself more clearly. I was alive more than ever! I felt a new peace and a new strength. And that experience has been emblazoned in my soul ever since. That trip empowered me with a new understanding of life and a realization that has traveled with me everywhere. So much so, that when I gave birth to my son, I named him Egypt after the spiritual journey that mended my broken heart.
As a new mother, I recognized it was now my job to be the great voice my grandmother (pictured, who died in 2009) was to me. And I learned that some things never change -- some lessons never get old… they remain the very same as they were the first day you heard them. You can travel all over the world, but your roots are always with you.
We are so fortunate to live in a world today that embraces family on so many levels. Families aren’t all the same but that’s what makes them unique and special… each member carries a part of the past with them. And that’s why I am fascinated by traditions… we can create them along the way. We can hold on to pieces of our history and special times in our life that make us who we are, and we can add to them as well.
As we pass these things on to generations, we can help keep the spirit of tradition alive in our families. Something that our children's children will remember and implement in their own families too. It's our legacy! As families keep growing, the traditions, lessons and colorful stories from generations before always have a place at the table where they never grow old. And now we can keep these memories alive in our children and grandchildren so they too can be filled with life and strength.