Chopped Liver

For as long as I can remember, I have loved traditions. I suppose some of it is that I love having something to look forward to. And, being somewhat of a control freak, I generally like to know exactly what it is that I am in for. It is out of my appreciation for tradition that I have filled the lives of my children with them. For instance, everyone gets to pick their breakfast on their birthday. On the first day of school, I have a card for each of them in their lunch boxes. On Valentine’s Day, I give them waffles cut into the shape of hearts with a cookie cutter. On the Friday after Thanksgiving we decorate the house for Christmas - while drinking hot chocolate, listening to Christmas music and wearing pajamas and purple socks. I am just kidding about the socks. That would be too much. I am not a lunatic. The kids look forward to these and other traditions and I do too. It was in this spirit that Frozen Yogurt Friday was born. Here is a picture from our very first F.Y.F!

Our very first Frozen Yogurt Friday!

It wasn’t just about me getting to eat frozen yogurt, although over the past few months I have developed quite an affinity for it. It was about the fellowship that it allowed and encouraged. Most days after school I teach voice or piano lessons until dinner time. But Friday afternoons are special. No lessons are scheduled. It was an intentional choice on my part, although it has meant turning away potential students. Friday afternoons are just about me and the kids. Problem is, when we got home from school, Julia would make a bee line for the television and Zeke would dive into the world of the Nintendo DS. We were home together, but not actually together at all! This is how the idea came to me – we had to go somewhere besides home – a place where we could all enjoy ourselves together, without the usual distractions.

We have three places that are close to our house, and we alternate between them. I have a punch card for all three places and we go wherever I have a discount or a reward to cash in. Over time, we have expanded the circle to bring others into Frozen Yogurt Friday – a sweet family friend, Uncle Jon, and even a friend of Zeke’s from school. We have enjoyed this tradition on sunny Fridays, rainy Fridays, even cold Fridays. There are traditions even within the tradition, as every visit begins the same way. Upon arrival, Julia gets three sample cups and passes one out to each of us. We peruse the options, joyfully sharing with each other when a new flavor is spotted. Once everyone has made their flavor selection, I do the honors of serving the yogurt. Self serve, pay by the ounce = recipe for disaster if you let the kids get their own. I learned that lesson on the first F.Y.F.! Everyone gets to pick one topping. Zeke asks me every week which toppings he can get the most of. Then I spend a couple of minutes pointing out the lightweight toppings – sprinkles, rice krispies, marshmallows. Nearly every week, he ends up picking gummy bears, one of the heaviest toppings. I sprinkle about 6 around the top of his yogurt and he is content, even knowing that he turned away a couple of spoonfuls of a lighter option. After I pay, we sit together, share about our day what we are looking forward to that weekend. We just enjoy not having to rush off anywhere.

I love Frozen Yogurt Fridays. I look forward to them all week. And the kids do too. I think.

This week, Zeke was invited to have a play date with a friend from his class. In an attempt to encourage my children to have friends, I went out of my comfort zone and agreed to the play date, even though I knew that a Friday play date would preempt F.Y.F. I explained to Zeke that if he did have the play date, he would be missing F.Y.F.. I imagined him being very sad, his eyes filling with tears, his voice shaking as his trembling lips said, “Mommy, I don’t want to miss that! I will play with him another time.”

“That’s okay!” he chirped instead. “I don’t care if I miss it!”

Hmmm.

Turning my attention to my one remaining good child, I cheerfully presented the situation to Julia. “We will get to have a special date, J! Just you and me!” Since she is frequently annoyed by the presence of her little brother, and often begs me for some “alone time – just you and me”, I knew she would be thrilled at this serendipity.

Then I heard a sound that vaguely reminding me of. . .  Was someone crying??

My daughter, formerly known as my one remaining good child, was sitting at the table actually shedding tears at the prospect of having Frozen Yogurt Friday with me.

“Why does Zeke get to have a play date and I don’t?” she lamented.

“Zeke’s friend asked him, J.  But we still get to have our date! Frozen Yogurt Friday is our tradition, you know.”

“Mom, no offense”, (too late) “but will you PLEASE call Lauren’s mom and ask her if I can have a play date?” Thankfully, she added, “It’s not that I don’t appreciate our tradition, mom. I just want to have friends like Zeke does.” Well, at least there was that.

I started to feel a bit of anxiety at the prospect of having to cancel our end-of-the-week ritual. I also realize this is how people start out down the road to inflexible, old person kurmudgeonness. Tradition is great. But one must also learn the art of flexibility.

“Sure.”

Now don’t you worry about me. Frozen Yogurt Friday will live on – next week’s attendance has been proclaimed to be “mandatory” – but this Friday I will be sitting at Mango Tango, or Swirltastic, or Yogurt Spot. . . alone.

A small cup of cheesecake-flavored frozen yogurt topped with one scoop of blueberries in the hand of me, chopped liver.

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