By Maria R. Perez, MSSW

As the month of November has begun, so have many family traditions. Most of these traditions call for families to get together. We gather as family and friends for Dia de Muertos, Diwali, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving Day, and not to mention Black Friday Sales! Plus, we also gather for whatever birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, and funerals may occur in these last two months of 2020. So, what are we to do amid the worst health crisis our country, and our city have ever known? What are we to do amid curfews, quarantines, lock-downs, and social distancing? Well, we still celebrate, rejoice, honor, commemorate, and raise a glass for all.  We just need to be more creative and explore different resources.

As we prepare for these up and coming holidays, plus those of December and January we could consider that the bottom line is tradition. There is great joy in knowing that we are part of something much bigger than us. Traditions and knowing of our ancestors give us a healthy sense of relatedness, belonging and beneficence. Creating our own traditions, whether alone, or as a group adds to our sense of autonomy and competence. We may choose to be upset about not flying across the country to hang out with family and high school friends. Or we may choose to be relieved about not having to travel and become creative and start our own traditions.

The holidays can be a special time of grounding through traditions and family histories. An internet search can provide a variety ideas and projects. For example, one can find free programs and apps to assist in creating a family tree. Initiating in genealogy does not have to be an expensive project. Documenting and archiving are great activities on their own and doing it through a family tree can help with structure and timelines. Exploring family heritage, and physical similarities can also be part of a family tree. Many individuals have countless photographs stashed away in some closet. A timed activity with assigned tasks could be coordinated with children of all ages. A large family collage could be created for each child’s room. And poof! That annoying box of photographs disappears.

With the ease of technology, it can be quite simple to record family stories in video, or just in audio. How many times have we grimaced or shirked when grandpa starts to tell that never ending story for the third time that week? Well, trust me, days, or months after grandpa is gone, we would wish to hear him again. Somehow after our loved ones have passed, their quirks and peculiarities that once may have annoyed us become amusing and endearing.

Maybe your elder or even young family members have served in the armed forces. Documenting their stories can be of great family value. Was your veteran a war hero? Did they serve on a ship? Did they have a special friend, or did they meet their spouse in a different country? All these questions and scenarios can lead to wonderful anecdotes. And remember that here on the Border some of us have family members whom in one way or another may have been involved in the Mexican Revolution.

Sometimes we do not know these things, and other unknowns simply because we never asked. In lieu of Black Friday, many of us will take advantage of Cyber Monday and fill our virtual shopping carts with great finds. In the same easy manner, the internet can help us take our family traditions to a different and exciting level. Zoom, Face Time, Skype, and Facebook Chat Rooms, are but a few of the apps and programs that can connect us to others. Gathering now will have a new meaning. And quite frankly, our society had become too hurried. Now we can relish being together through our electronic devices at a gentler pace. 

– María R. Pérez, MSSW, Somos Familía Genealogy Services, El Paso, Texas

María R. Pérez is an artist, a writer, and a retired social worker who also enjoys genealogy. She is a strong advocate for the dis-empowered and a founding member of The Tornillo Collective – Individuals calling attention to the plight of migrant families and children in US detention facilities through the arts. She is highly creative and imaginative. Maria grew up with a disability. Maybe her physical limitations made her mind nurture possibilities!


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