This is a story about 4 people (their names have all been changed to protect their privacy): Gwen, Helen, Jacqueline and Katie They are all related by being mother and daughter.
Gwen is the youngest. Helen is Gwen’s mother. Jacqueline is Gwen’s grandmother and Katie is Gwen’s great-grandmother. Even though she is the youngest, Gwen is grown up and is recently married to a great guy whose name is Ed.
Their family is very traditional in the sense that they love to put together big dinners for the holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas. Turkey for dinner on Thanksgiving for sure, and then usually either another turkey or sometimes roast duck for Christmas.
That’s the way Katie has always done the holidays and that’s the way her daughter, Jacqueline, does them. That’s the way Jacqueline’s daughter, Helen, does it and that is still the way Gwen does holiday dinners today. Last year was Gwen’s first year preparing the traditional meals like this because she and Ed just got married last year in September. Lots of warm, happy holiday traditions in their family and that’s the way they live their lives.
This extended family also has another excellent tradition. On the second Saturday in December, they have another traditional feast in their family households. On that day, they all prepare a delicious baked ham.
Gwen makes one, Helen makes one, Jacqueline does and so does Katie. Even though it’s really just Katie and her husband nowadays, she makes a small one anyway, because she loves to participate in the family tradition.
And they all fix their hams in exactly the same way. They prepare a special glaze with brown sugar, raisins, some cloves, a hint of allspice, red pepper and a half cup of whiskey. They put all those ingredients into a bowl and whisk them together, then warm the glaze on the stove.
Then they cut off the end of the ham, toss it out, place the remaining ham into the roaster pan and pour the glaze over it until it puddles just a bit underneath the ham. The ham is roasted at 350 degrees for 2 ½ hours and its ready to eat.
Gwen and Ed were newlyweds last year and learning about each other‘s family traditions. So Ed was in the kitchen helping Gwen prepare the ham and was watching as she cut the end of the ham off and threw it away. Naturally he was curious about this and asked, “Gwen, why do you cut that part of the ham off and throw it away, it looks perfectly fit to eat.”
Gwen replied, “I don’t know. My mother always did it that way, so that’s the way I do it.”
Ed was unhappy with that answer because he thought it was just a waste of good food. So he asked Gwen if she would please ask her Mom why the ham has to have the end cut off before it goes into the oven.
Gwen finished up in the kitchen and rang her Mom up on the phone and asked, “Mom, why do you always cut the end of the ham off and throw it away before putting the ham into the oven?”
Helen replied, “Well, honey, I’m not really sure, that’s the way my Mom always did it, so I always do it that way too. And over the years I have thrown away a lot of ham ends. That just how it is. But you know what? I could call and ask your grandmother the reason.”
They hung up and Helen calls her Mom, Jacqueline, and to ask her why she always cut the end of the ham off and threw it away when preparing the roast ham for the second Saturday in December dinner.
Jacqueline thought about this for a minute and finally answered, “I don’t really know, it was what my Mom did every time when she was preparing the ham and come to think of it, I have thrown away a lot of ham over the years I‘ve been preparing this dinner. This has got me thinking now, so I am just going to call her up and ask why we are always supposed to cut off the end of the ham to make the dinner.”
So Jacqueline hung up with Helen and then called her own mom, Katie, and tells her that Gwen was wondering why she was supposed to cut off the end of the ham, and Helen was wondering why you have to cut off the end of the ham and now I am wondering why I have to cut off the end of the ham before we make the traditional ham dinner in December. I mean between the four of us, we have thrown a lot of ham away over the years.
Katie thinks for a minute while she is on the phone, and then answers. “Well, I don’t have any idea why you cut off the end of the ham and throw it away, and I don’t why Helen does that and I certainly don’t know why Gwen does it, but I do it because my ham roasting pan is so small, that the ham won’t fit any other way.”
The Takeaway From Reading This
Some of the ideas and practices we learn when we are kids are very helpful to us. Look both ways before crossing the street. Make sure your sneakers are tied up before you go out jogging. Eat breakfast in the morning to have good day. All good things to do.
But, the truth is, that when we are little, all the things our parents do are the “right way” to do things because we don’t know any other way to do them. And if our parents are doing it that way, then that must be the way we are supposed to do it.
Our parents don’t mean us any harm when they teach us these ideas and actions, because for the most part that they are simply passing along what they know to be the right way to do those things that they learned from their parents. And if those thoughts and ideas serve you now, keep them, and if they don’t, it is OK to let them go.
No need to hang onto ideas like, girls are not supposed to play football, boys are not supposed to cry, or it is a sign of weakness to show any emotion about anything at all in public. None of those things will help you have a better day as a grownup and may in fact, hurt you.
Stop throwing the ends of your ham away just because that’s the way you learned it from an adult when you were a child. If you want something different in your life that you know will suit your life better, then do that instead. Think that way instead, feel that way instead.
It is your life, you are in charge, and nobody is going to be any better at running your life, than you are.
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