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Article posted: July 7, 2000



Unexpected Family Traditions
By: Ryan Taylor, Biography and Archived Articles


Sometimes family traditions spring up in an unexpected way. You might not even recognize them as traditional. My niece pointed out a new theme in our family last week.

My brother in law lost a foot to cancer ten years ago. If you saw him walking you would not realize he has a prosthesis, but every once in a while he has to take it off to change his stump sock.

He did so recently and his 18 month old grandson noticed for the first time. Steven was fascinated with his grandad's removable foot. He can't talk much yet, but from his reaction we know that he'll be asking lots of questions on the subject sometime in the future.

When I told my niece this story, she said, "That's like the way we used to ask Grampa to take his teeth out." My father had a talent for pushing out his upper plate with his tongue. It would shoot out halfway and then he would flip it back in again, much to the delight of his young grandchildren. As you can see, they still remember and talk about it.

Going back another generation, my father's grandad had a glass eye. He had lost the original in an industrial accident. Dad remembered that he and his sisters would crowd around him begging him to take out his eye for their benefit. He always obliged.
One of Dad's most vivid memories was a schoolday when he stopped at his grandfather's as he walked home. The eye salesman was visiting. Glass eyes wore out and had to be replaced periodically. Spread on trays on the table was an array of blue eyes while the salesman and Grandad tried to match the bright colour of his remaining eye.
It is an odd tradition, I know, and one that in former days would be unmentionable. One of the advantages of our age is that these physical changes, once seen as disadvantages or handicaps, are merely facts of life.

And when grandfathers can interact with their grandchildren in such a fun and intimate way, it becomes a memory to be treasured for a lifetime. What a good thing family traditions are, especially if they shoot up spontaneously from the little experiences of life.



Books By Ryan Taylor

Across The Waters, Ontario Immigrants Experiences 1820 - 1850 - by Frances Hoffman & Ryan Taylor, 1999. Riveting first-hand accounts of the immigration and settlement experience, taken from the diaries and letters of 150 immigrants.

Routes To Roots, The Best of Ryan Taylor's columns from the Kitchener Waterloo Record, by Ryan Taylor 1997



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