A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Beth Underwood: Family traditions are family traditions, in one form or another, and can change

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterPin on PinterestShare on LinkedInShare on StumbleUponShare on RedditEmail this to someone

Ah, traditions. Whether they’re a component of major holidays or part of our weekly rituals, we all have traditions in one form or another. For some, it may mean a chili dinner with the family before the kids go trick-or-treating. For others, it could be pancakes every Sunday morning. In our family, it means lining up for our annual flu shots on Thanksgiving.

That’s right. We know how to party.

Typically, this sequence of shots convenes shortly after the big feast, somewhere between slices of pumpkin pie and turkey-coma naps. The smell of rubbing alcohol wafts through the house, overpowering the fading roast turkey aroma and kicking off the holiday season in style.

So it has been for as long as I can remember. For such is the blessing and curse of being the child of a physician.

If I were a betting person, I’d bet this family custom began as a matter of convenience. With everyone gathered together to count their blessings, Dad had a better um, shot, at mass inoculation versus dosing out a flu shot here and a flu shot there. It was an added holiday boon of sorts — another reason to be grateful.

Just how grateful depends on which camp each of us associates with.

The Martyrs

Historically, this has been the smallest category. I like to refer to us as the stoic ones. (That’s right. I’m in this group. Why would you doubt that?) We’re the ones who line up like cattle being led to the slaughter. And we’re okay with that. While the medicine in that little needle may sting a little, it beats the alternative of full-blown flu.

We set the example for everyone else to follow. We also know something the others don’t. Dad is the reigning king of shot giving. If you have to get a shot, he’s your man. I can’t overstate this.

The martyr camp primarily includes:

• Most of the adults in the family. Operative word being most.
• One and a half grandchildren. We’ll get to the half in just a minute.

The Exemptions

While this certainly wouldn’t have been an option when I was a kid, there’s a short list of exemptions each year. The trouble-makers, if you will. For the record, there are not-so-nice consequences associated with being a member of this group. Just ask my brother, the only family member who was stricken with dreaded pig flu a few years back. I’m just saying’. Anyway, here’s a look at the people who make up the exempt crowd:

• Those opposed on principle to getting the shot. (Dad’s accompanying lecture is not an option, however.)
• Screaming grandchildren, aka cowardly crumb-crunchers.

This brings us to our last camp:

The Con Man (or, in this case, con woman)

These are the shiftier ones among us. The sly-like-a-fox tricksters. The ones who don’t want to get the flu and aren’t necessarily opposed to the shot. They just need a little persuasion. Take my daughter Hannah, for example. Actually, she’s this camp’s only current member.

Her tactics begin with an audible whine in her voice, as she says things like, “are you sure it won’t sting?” or “what if it does hurt?” She determined years ago that if she holds out long enough, some sort of bribe will surface from her grandfather. Funny how five bucks can supersede the pinch of a needle. Were it not for the bribery involved, she would be a full member of the Martyrs, instead of a half-member.

These bribes don’t always pan out, though. When Colton was part of the Con Man team, his bribery came in the form of barbecue potato chips — not spendable currency, at least in this neck of the woods. Between the bribe gone bad and realizing the shot was virtually painless, he joined the Martyrs and never looked back.

This year, it won’t matter which group we’re a part of, though. Our annual tradition received the ol’ heave-ho. Shots came early this year. I suppose Dad wants to make sure our defenses are up in time to ward off early influenza. Or maybe he and Mom are going on a cruise to some exotic locale. Or maybe he just doesn’t understand the importance of family traditions. (Surely that’s not the case, is it, Dad?)

Regardless, this means we’ll have to find something else to do after Thanksgiving dinner. What that will be is anyone’s guess. I can only hope we don’t know any dentists who work that day.

Beth Underwood is an award-winning journalist whose work has appeared in numerous newspapers and magazines. She shares stories of everyday life that entertain, inspire, and encourage others. Her books include Gravity, a narrative nonfiction account of a small group of Tennessee National Guardsmen, and Talk Bourbon to Me, a lighthearted look at Kentucky’s native spirit. Drop her a line at beth@bethwrightunderwood.com, or visit her website at bethwrightunderwood.com.

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterPin on PinterestShare on LinkedInShare on StumbleUponShare on RedditEmail this to someone

Related Posts

Leave a Comment