When my mother died many years ago, my father tried to do things exactly the same way Mother did. When Mother made a green salad, iceberg was her lettuce of choice. Her sandwiches were spread with Miracle Whip. White bread was all she bought. Dad followed suit for several years because it was comforting to know he was doing what Mother would have done.
Then one day, when my husband and I came over for dinner, I noticed Dad had made a salad using romaine and field greens. “What, Dad, no iceberg?” He looked at me sheepishly and said, “I wanted to try something different. I think this has more taste.” Then he added, with a nervous laugh, “You don’t think Mother would mind, do you?” After I “gave him permission” to do what he wanted to do, a flood of other changes started showing up. He bought dark bread and mayonnaise (He told me he had never really liked Miracle Whip but that is what Mom used, so he went with it), and he experimented with my mother’s recipes, adding different spices or ingredients to make them his own. I remember laughing to myself when I saw how reluctant he was to find his own way.
I wonder how many things I do because my parents did them that way. When did I finally become myself? How much of me is in my children? Do we hang on to certain ways because they are comforting and make us think of the ones who did them that way? Is there a little hint of fear that the way we learned is the best way and doing something a different way might not turn out as well? I have no answers. I’m just musing.