Author Archives: glgustav@usc.edu

Family Meals Age Ritual

A conversation with a family friend is listed below:

Me: “My dad is going to say a short message tomorrow… he always does because we can never get everyone we want to to go to Easter service together.”

Response: “Yah I know I remember his thing from last year. I kinda like it though…haha..wouldn’t be the same without it. I was literally just telling someone about my holiday dinner family thing and that’s what it reminds me of.”

Me: “I have no idea what thing you’re talking about.”

Response: “Oh haha…I thought you heard me earlier. At holiday dinners my grandpa would always cut and carve the turkey, but when he no longer could because of being too old it’s a job for the next oldest son in his family. Think it’ll just keep going down the line of sons for every holiday.”

 

Background: He is 23 year old male raised in Simi Valley, CA and currently residing in Brentwood, CA as a post-graduate from USC.

Context: This conversation occurred while he was eating dinner at my house the night before Easter.

Analysis: This story was very interesting to me for multiple reasons. The first being that rituals stemming from family connections I think are a very telling way of learning more about a person you may already think you know well; this happened for me after engaging in the conversation above. Additionally, in this particular circumstance, their family ritual is completely male dominant. He didn’t mention anything that daughters do at their family gatherings, only males. I started to think about this concept in relation to my own family traditions, which I found very compelling to analyze. I think family rituals are extremely dynamic and engaging to explore.

Proverb

A mentor spoke a proverb to me that goes:

“The more you know the less you need”

 

Background: The speaker is a 52 year old father who grew up in Century City, CA and currently lives with his wife and three kids in Calabasas, CA. He is an entrepreneur and currently owns and manages multiple of his own companies.

Context: After dinner, he told me this proverb reflecting on his professional career.

Analysis: He shared with me that he originally heard this proverb from his father and it stuck with him, and therefore grew up with it always at the forefront of his mind.  Proverbs are really interesting to me because, by nature, they are vague enough that each individual can apply it to whatever area in their life that the words apply to them personally. For him, these words always were always important in terms of his professional career. To me, however, when I first heard this, I did not think of my future career at all, but rather in relationship to the family and friends in my life. Learning from people in my environment and truly knowing people who I care about makes me less and less inclined to need more. I love the way that proverbs manifest in each individual’s life and can stick with you through whatever circumstance is thrown at you.

Ambulance Superstition

A conversation with a female friend went as follows:

Me: “I am not a very superstitious person at all. I don’t feel like those things ever do anything.”

Response: “I don’t have a a lot, but there are a couple that I do religiously. I don’t even think about it anymore”

Me: “Really? I would NEVER think that about you.”

Response: “Yeah… they are so subconscious at this point I don’t even think anyone else would even notice. I don’t even notice haha. But like…let me think of one…. Oh, every time I see an an ambulance I have to touch something red”

*(as she responds, she reaches her right hand to her left hip)*

 

 

Background: She is a twenty-year old born and raised in Boston, MA and currently living in Los Angeles, CA attending USC as a sophomore. Her parents are divorced and she has two younger sisters.

Context: This conversation took place as we were walking from class back to my apartment building.

Analysis: As my friend was telling me about a superstition of hers, she subconsciously reached her right hand across her body towards her left hip. At first I laughed, wondering why she did that, and when I told her why she was laughing she realized what she was doing. She explained that she typically would see an ambulance with its lights on while she was driving or in the car, and therefore, the closest thing to her to touch would be the red base on seatbelts. This superstition and “touching something red” has become so second nature to her that she literally acts like she is touching a seatbelt even when simply talking about the superstition itself. The fact that she didn’t realize what she was doing demonstrates how embedded folkloric beliefs can become in our worldview and within our daily actions. I was very intrigued by this interaction and loved gaining more insight into the depth of her superstitious beliefs as our conversation continued and developed.

Reading of the Christmas Story

A father has implemented a tradition in his family that the eldest family member present reads the “Christmas Story” as recorded in the book of the Bible, Luke. This occurs before any Christmas presents are opened, he explains:

“I started this tradition as a way of reminding everyone what Christmas truly means without getting too wrapped up in the excitement of the holiday and the gift aspect. Christmas to me is a true celebration of life and having the oldest family member read the story is another way of celebrating life itself.

This version of the Christmas story text reads as follows (Luke Chapter 2: 1-21, NIV edition):

“In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. And everyone went to their own town to register. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.

While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the         Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them,“Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

 “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise the child, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he was conceived.”

 

 

Background:He is 53 years old and raised in Los Gatos, CA. He was raised in a Catholic home and began to strongly identify in the Christian faith after college and into his years as a father. He attended Santa Clara University in Silicon Valley.

Context:He shared this tradition with me at a dinner we had just the two of us. His mother had just passed away, and he was reflecting on his fondest memories of her.

Analysis: Family traditions, particularly those linked to particular holidays or particular people, is a really emotional form of folklore. There is something about a holiday ritual that evokes such a strong sense of family unity and solidarity that I think is very unique. In terms of the Christmas tradition explained above, the most captivating element is that the reading is done by the eldest family member every year. This is really emotional to think about, as the eldest family member could potentially change every year depending on family members who pass on. For the person who shared this story, his mom was the one reading the Christmas story for many years, until this Christmas, when the tradition had to be passed on to someone new. The tradition becomes heavy in this sense, but also a really beautiful way to continue someone’s legacy and memory within one family unit.

Lucky Number

My conversation with Suzie went as follows:

Me: “I don’t get when people say they have items or things that are lucky. I don’t feel like I have anything like that.”

Suzie: “What do you mean…you don’t have a lucky number or outfit or anything?”

Me: “Haha…no. I don’t think so….Do you?”

Suzie: “One HUNDRED percent. My number is 10:28. Every time I look at the clock it is 10:28 whether it’s am or pm. And I always notice because it’s the same number as my birthday…October 28th. So it’s my lucky number.”

Me: “When did you first start to notice that?”

Suzie: “I actually think I started noticing it when I met my husband because we’d always call each other or text each other at 10:28. He’d call and be like ‘Hi Suzie, its 10:28 so I thought of you…what are you up too?’ right when we started dating.”

 

Background: Suzie is a fifty-two year old mom currently living in Calabasas, CA. She has been married to her husband for 25 years and they have three kids together.

Context: I had this conversation with Suzie after a dinner at her house.

Analysis: The idea of something being “lucky” is so interesting to analyze because it is so unique to each individual. I don’t have anything in my life that sticks out as being “lucky” and neither do any of my immediate family members; we learn so many tendencies from our parents and siblings, so I think this has a lot to do with it. The only thing I could think of in this conversation with Suzie was that my favorite number as a kid was “2” and that was only because my brother’s jersey number was always 2 in the different sports he played. This furthers demonstrates the ideal in Suzie’s story that “lucky” or “favorite” things result from important moments or relationships in your life.