disconnected histories from somewhere or elsewhere…

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I’ve been there before… or have I?

Leaving Massachusetts, travelling through New Hampshire and up into Vermont the other day, we passed some familiar places. Familiar in another land, found in an unfamiliar sequence here. Winchester, Reading, Andover, Londonderry, Manchester, Grantham, Lebanon…

So what’s in a name I wonder?

If you are from Andover in Hampshire in the UK, I guess that particular Andover might have meaning, history, personality even. We didn’t stop, but I imagine the Andover in Massachusetts might be  very different. As indeed might the Andover we saw a sign for in New Hampshire. Andovers, born in many places, descended from one perhaps?

And if we say, “I’m from Andover,” what does that really mean? Especially if the Andover in New Hampshire was once born from the Andover in Hampshire?

Many of us get names given to us which are that of a grandparent, or great grandparent. Family names handed down.

But names are not only a throw back to the past, to a previous generation, and a remembering of someone long lost. They are also a means of handing down history to a future generation. An acknowledgement and a gift for safe keeping. A way to continue existence on into the future.

I wonder if the residents of Andover NH are even aware of the British town? Just like many of us given an old family name from a generation past; never met, never known.

History is weird like that. Gone, but desperately remembered. We somehow need the roots of a past, even when it is a past never experienced or indeed long lost to us.

It’s as if we need to be reassured we came from somewhere. And when we know what that somewhere was called, we call ourselves, today, now, the same thing. Thereby connected, thereby grounded, thereby real. We exist.

is it time to change the baubles?

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Christmas approaches.

You probably have decorations up. At home. In the office. Maybe your house is lit up from top to bottom, with trailing flashing lights, illuminated elves and a ho-ho-ho-ing Father Christmas? Maybe not.

Decorations are a tradition at this time of year. As is the tree. So too Brussels sprouts, parsnips, Christmas pudding, mince pies, giving gifts, time off work, parties, over eating, old films on the television…

Traditions connect us to the past.

As individuals we have traditions too. Ways of being, behaviours, things we say or do. We learned them a long time ago, but they stay with us in the present.

Traditions can be thought of as the passing of customs, behaviours or beliefs from one generation to the next, usually within a specific group. Often they reflect a special significance, a meaning defined by our ancestors, long ago.

So too with our own traditions of custom, belief or behaviour. Except with our own traditions of being, we created the meaning and the significance ourselves. And we passed them down, from our childhood, through our teenage formative years, into our early adulthood, our mid-life (crisis optional) and on into our old age. At an early stage of our lives we decided something had to be so. Probably for good reason. Now we continue to live it. It has become our own personal tradition.

Sometimes we would do well to unpack these. To review them. To notice them. To see if they still serve us well.

Traditions can be good. Reminders of our past. Connections to where we come from. But sometimes they can become unhelpful, inappropriate or even a burden.

Reviewing our traditions is probably something we should all do, at this traditional time of year.

Keep what serves you. Change what doesn’t.