In the Fall, we always go apple picking on a Friday afternoon. We go to the same apple orchard, take a picture by the same photo op with the cute measurement, and on the tractors by the barn. We get apple cider and apple donuts, a kind of salute to cooler weather and the beginning of the new school year. It’s tradition!
After three failed attempts interrupted by hurricanes, RSV, and hours of traffic, we didn’t go apple-picking. It wasn’t that we didn’t want to continue the tradition. We did, but it didn’t work out. I found myself in the last window of time that we maybe could have gone apple-picking with everyone wanting to push through even though I knew the kids were tired and hungry and even though I knew what we all needed was to get home to settle in for bedtime. I wanted to keep the tradition alive! I found myself lamenting that there would be a year gap in our pictures and memories.
In every church where I have served, the discussions around traditions have been tenuous. Emotions and memories are tied to traditions in a way that touches our hearts and souls and offer us hope for the uncertainty life so often brings. Traditions ground in the changing seasons and the changing world we live in and provide predictable sanctuaries of comfort and peace. And yet sometimes, traditions create such determination that we overlook where we are now and who we are now. Sometimes traditions that served us in the past, don’t serve who we are now or our changing family dynamics. Sometimes traditions exclude new people, new opportunities, and growth.
Even as I let go of our fall tradition, I found myself realizing it wasn’t the actual apple-picking I missed. It was the time together outside marveling at the leaves and breathing in the crisp mountain air. When I gave up on trying to fit in apple-picking, it allowed time to wander around our old neighborhood in Asheville and remember our house and our home there. We laughed and pointed out how things had changed. We gathered around the table eating pizza as we watched the leaves fall outside the window.
The tradition wasn’t actually apple-picking at all. The tradition was marking the changing season together looking up to the mountains and enjoying really good food. Turns out there’s more than one way to keep that tradition alive!