The holiday season is filled with traditions. Maybe your family goes to church as part of your celebration, maybe you go ice skating, or always prepare a big turkey dinner with stuffing or take your kids to Santa Clause or even buy a $10 bag of groceries to help feed the hungry. With any tradition, whether it’s spiritual in nature or just a happy ritual, it’s the act of doing it together and on a consistent enough basis that you anticipate it, you expect it and it becomes engrained in your memory, forever linked with (and in essence defining) the holiday experience.
Like so many other American families, my parents are divorced. In addition to the holidays needing a bit more pre-planning and negotiation than simply booking a plane flight home, I feel the loss of our family traditions as painful casualties. I remember as a child, we would open a present on Christmas Eve before the parents sent my brother and I to bed. Then on Christmas morning, we would all shower and get dressed, and Dad would have his coffee before we could even consider opening the rest. I cherished those moments with my brother before the parents joined us, when we were antsy and impatient but excited and full of laughter too.
That was years ago. Nowadays, my father never puts up any Christmas lights, he doesn’t have a tree, or do anything even remotely Christmas-y. We’ve long ago given up the idea of getting each other presents. My mother will still put up an artificial tree, and most years, even decorates it. Occasionally there’s eggnog, but there’s no large dinner where everyone comes over, instead we’ll eat Chinese food or snack on simple things for hours, just the two of us. Every year it’s a little different; what we do, where we go, who I’m with.
My holidays now are a combination of the joy of creating new traditions and a keen yearning for ones that have remained. This year, I spent Christmas with both parents, the day with my Mom and the evening with my Dad. The following morning, Dad and I kept up a tradition that’s almost twenty years old: the Omelet House.
The Omelet House is a classic American breakfast restaurant. It originally started in 1968 with a location on West Charleston road in Las Vegas, Nevada. They open at 7am and close at 3pm. If you show up at 11:30 on a normal weekend day, you’ll find a line to the door. They’ve been voted Best Place for Breakfast 11 times in the Review Journal’s Best of Las Vegas. And every time Dad and I come, we never look at the menu; we always order the same thing: Eggs Benedict and Blueberry Stuffed French Toast.
The Eggs Benedict is always on point. The poached eggs are perfectly cooked, still runny yokes with firm whites, and home fries that look like potato chips. The hollandaise sauce is a bright warm yellow, and has the right amount of tang.
The French toast is no ordinary French toast. See how the blueberries are between the two pieces? Doesn’t that look delicious? Order stuffed French toast in other breakfast joints and they pour the fruit on top. No thank you.
On our very first visit to the Omelet House, Dad and I both wanted the same things, and as menu negotiations are common at family outings, then and there, we decided to share these two entrees, and our tradition was born.
Sharing food with others is a sign of comfort and trust. There’s something intimate and loving about it. It’s a joyous feeling that Dad and I like the same foods, and together, we can have our perfect meal at the most important time of the day.
I’m usually done with my portions in 10-15 minutes. Dad is a slower eater, sometimes taking up to 45 minutes to an hour. I appreciate the coffee refills and use the time to tell him stories about anything and everything. He’s eating, so he kinda has to listen.
This is our ritual. A little thing we do once or twice a year when I come to visit. It’s special. Not just because it’s my Dad and I, or that the restaurant has that comfortable homey vibe, or that the food is just delicious, or that our waitress was the boss’s daughter, or that we’ve been doing this exact thing for several years. It’s special for all those reasons.
Traditions are important because they give us an experience that is both unique in the moment and yet still familiar; it bonds us together as family members, friends, co-workers, and people. Like a good daughter, I picked up the tab. Next time it’s your turn, Dad.