Tuesday, November 06, 2018

Cultural Continuity - Close Examples

Rambling.  Feel free to ramble in the comments yourself.  I am interested in the folkways, the patterns of continuity among your friends and family, and whether they fit anything I have described.

Having children increases your tendency to stay in some traditional culture. You aren’t going to experiment with foods so much, you are going to stick with things that produce fewer arguments. Two people coming together will bring separate food folkways with them, so there will be some newness, but the person doing most of the cooking – likely she – will serve things children are known to like, such as what her mother served her. Tracy and I have shared the cooking, but few of our standby’s are from my mother’s repertoire, but from her mother's. My married sons cook very little, so my granddaughters eat from their mothers’ heritage. Two of the unmarried sons eat very adventurously now, though they didn’t as children. They go out or take out food, they have traveled more, when they cook there is little or nothing from their childhoods. 

Traveling. Moving to a new place has a liberalizing tendency, staying near The Old Folks At Home is conservatizing, if that’s a word. The act of cutting off from a location allows you to pick and choose what you will bring with you. You can live in a different kind of climate, in a different kind of house, go to a different church, take a job you wouldn’t find at home.  People do cling tenaciously to some of those chosen folkways – colonies sometimes preserve customs long discarded in the home country – but the point is you chose them. As it is more of a project to move with children, people hesitate more over that. Having children and living near your own parents, you hear more about your own childhood, and the continuity of traits.

This does raise cart-and-horse questions.  I left New England to go hours away for college, while my brother went to Plymouth State.  Yet I came back to New Hampshire, while he left halfway through to go to California. He may have carried his anti-traditionalism with him rather than picked it up there. And, neither of us kept either of our parent's cultures - I embraced older western culture, especially a British Christian one, with significant European Jewish flavoring.  As my wife is also an Anglophile, we self-designed a nuclear family culture not especially recognisable to either of our sets of parents.

Onomastics. My stepsiblings chose names very typical for prep New England from 1975-1995, and they are very traditional in a way different than we are. Tracy's brother chose Celtic names for his children, yet one more variation on hearkening back. We chose Biblical names with family middle names. Our granddaughter's middle name is Adelaide, which is both my mother's middle name and the original version of her mother's name, Heidi. My other brother's children have names that connect to popular culture, not any history. Among our friends, their dozen or so children had very standard names, their dozen or so grandchildren very unusual ones. Few of the weddings were in churches.
As for passing on trades or employment there is almost none of it, unless one counts a high percentage in both generations of women staying home with children (though part-time work is frequent), and of some home schooling. Some seem to have picked up variations of work that their grandparents did. We'll see what happens with the following generation of unusually-named children.


Donna B. said...

Unusually-named children and creative spellings are not a new thing. There is one generation (1850s) in my husband's maternal family where every poor child was named with either atrociously misspelled names of ancient Greek philosophers, or perhaps they chose syllables from 4 or 5 different ones and strung them together. While none of those were passed down, the next generation didn't exactly revert to Biblical or traditional names.

lelia said...

As someone who grew up with a misspelled name, I told my children to name their children names that could be instantly spelled correctly when heard, and instantly pronounced when seen. I named my children Joshua, John, Lucinda, Amber, and David. Three of them had children named Justin, Shane (Yay!) Xyia, Adia, Xian, and Kyden. (Sigh)

Donna B. said...

The food traditions in my family come from my maternal aunt and paternal grandmother, but the menu was always some variation of take it or leave it. Both families had Appalachian backgrounds, but there are regional differences even there. Chocolate gravy was a thing in my father's family so my mother learned to make it. Purple hull peas were a thing in my mother's family, so my father came to appreciate them over black-eyed peas. How fast can you get a big meal on the table was a thing in my father's family (14 children) but taste and texture were paid attention to in my mother's. The family favorites that I cook now for my children and grandchildren are pinto beans, potato soup, cornbread (still can't make it like my Momma), chicken and dumplings (I remove the skin and bones now) chocolate gravy, sawmill gravy, and biscuits.

Neither of my daughters feed their children like they were fed. When my daughters were born, we were running a family restaurant and they grew up with access to the equivalent of a personal short-order cook, thus they weren't subjected to the take it or leave it menu until they were much older. They got the non-argument ways from their mothers-in-law.

Donna B. said...

My grandchildren all have a middle name honoring a specific grandparent or great-grandparent. Their first names are easy to spell, old-fashioned, traditional, all of which are found somewhere on their family trees. One daughter paid attention to what their monograms would spell. The other... did not.