In the waiting area of the doctor's office, a man sitting with his wife and daughter, 20 feet away, says to me, "God bless you."
At home in the kitchen: Ah-Choo!
Watching TV in the family room, Darling Husband says to me, "Bless you."
DH again: "Bless you."
Susceptible to springtime allergies since forever ago, my sneeze follows me around for a month or two; getting the attention of a family member, friend, or stranger who promptly says, "Bless you," "God bless you," or an occasional "Gesundheit."
When I was a child at home with my parents, I rarely got those responses. More likely, I heard, "Woo, that was a big one!" "Cover you mouth," or Turn your head"...not that Mom didn't want God to bless me. After all, my heart was dangerously stopping and missing a beat each time I sneezed... according to the belief of many.
Always a smidgen of a non-conformist, it occurred to me that I don't have to say "Bless you" every time someone sneezes; though I think it's a kind and personable act. With no expectation of a reprimand, I tried it (silence) when my daughter, Girl#1, who likes attention, sneezed.
"You didn't say anything," she said.
Oh. Bless you.
"Thank you," she responded with a smile of satisfaction.
Dictionary dot com defines tradition as "the handing down of statements, beliefs, legends, customs, information, etc., from generation to generation, especially by word of mouth or by practice." Bless you seems to fit.
I began to wonder about other traditions. For instance... When we name a child after a relative - an honor to the deceased or to family unity - do we really like the name? And godparents... When I was little, I was told that a godparent took responsibility of a godchild if something happened to the parents. My children don't have godparents. Hmmm... (I'm counting on DH and I staying alive for awhile.)
I finished another book recently - This Is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper. A Jewish father dies. His wife and children sit shiva, a tradition of grieving together for seven days. The family in this R rated novel is probably not a good representation of sitting shiva, yet the characters learned some of life's lessons and benefited from it by forming stronger bonds.
Do we benefit from the traditions we follow? Do acts of tradition maintain order, as similar to laws?
Are you a traditional person?
(Rhetorically speaking: Does the bride have to wear white? Does the man have to be the breadwinner? Does the family have to spend holidays and vacations at the same place each year?)