Growing up in my family, summer was a time for slowing down, staying cool (in a sprinkler, pool, or lake), planting a vegetable garden, and reading good books. I loved going to the library and getting to pick out a stack of books for free! We would also often get together with extended family and friends to enjoy my dad’s famous bar-b-que, topped off with home-made ice cream. I have wonderful memories of these times. Good food, laughter, and prayer were foundations of these happy days.
During my childhood, my brother, sister, and I would usually go to visit my grandparents in Arkansas for a week in the summer. There we had marvelous adventures! We would rent a barge and go out on the lake for swimming and picnics, hike the woods together, play miniature golf, and have domino tournaments. We would visit their local library and I remember lying out on their deck reading each afternoon. We went with them to pancake suppers at their church. Devotions and prayer time were nightly rituals.
After Martin and I married and had children, Mom and Dad hosted “cousin camp” with Erin, Ryan, and their cousins for three or four days each summer. During this time, they would eat popsicles, jump on the trampoline, put up a tent in their backyard, fish in their creek, read books at rest time, and share devotions in the evenings. Those were treasured days!
Not only did such times provide precious memories for all of us, but they laid a foundation in our lives in which God, love, fun, and family were all intertwined. We knew we were loved by our parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins and that we had a place in the world. We knew what our family stood for and believed in. We heard stories of God’s faithfulness to our kinfolk from past generations. God was experienced as much or more as an integral part of our family times as He was on Sunday mornings at church, for He was talked about and talked to during good times together.
These days, it is important to ME to pass along special times and traditions for the benefit of our family. My great-nephew, Daniel, just turned ten and he is asking when he will get to come for his “swim camp” at my house this summer. Yearly, we cram all the swimming, talking, ice cream-eating, hoop-shooting, puzzle-building, game-playing, book-reading, and devotion-discussing that we can into “swim camp” days.
Daniel has now been joined by FIVE toddler and baby girls at our family gatherings! Recently, as everyone held hands to pray before digging in to Gigi’s 83rd birthday lunch, Daniel strategically placed himself between me and Emma (who idolizes him) and led us all in a wonderful prayer. Emma, at two, is already learning that God is a BIG part of ALL that we do and that He is always with us; He is the one we thank for our joys and tell about our sorrows.
Emma already looks forward to our trips to the library, reading time, swim time, . . . and nightly asks for her Bible story before bedtime. She can’t wait for the cousins, aunts, and uncles to come and she’s absorbing how we talk to and about God at our get-togethers!
Our summer traditions themselves are nothing grand; yet commitment and work are required in order to get people together. I believe the “secret sauce”, if you will, is in being together, repeating activities and foods that folks (especially the little ones) enjoy, and in acknowledging God in the FUN times! For traditions, however seemingly insignificant, become ingrained in our memories and I believe, help build a solid and grounded foundation for the upcoming generation!
I grew up hearing about how my great grandparents, Mama and Papa Tadlock, hosted regular ice cream socials at their home for family and for the Sunday school class they taught for many years. Mama Tadlock’s homemade vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce have been a handed down family tradition for as long as I can remember. Enjoy!
Mama Tadlock’s Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream
2 quarts whole milk
1 ½ cups sugar
1/4th cup flour
1 pint Half & Half
Boil 2 quarts of whole milk stirring constantly. Beat 7 eggs. Mix sugar, flour, and salt together and add to the eggs. When spider webs begin to form on top of the milk, slowly add the egg mixture and continue stirring. Cook and stir for five minutes over low heat. Pour into ice cream maker and add Vanilla and Half & Half, leaving 1 inch at the top of the freezer. Freeze using ice and rock salt.
Mama Tadlock’s Homemade Chocolate Sauce
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup milk
1 tbsp. butter
Pinch of salt
4 tbsp. Cocoa
Bring all ingredients to a boil on stove over medium heat while stirring. Boil for about a minute over low heat until all is thoroughly mixed and enjoy over ice cream.
One tradition that we chose to continue was the grandparent names Martin and I chose. My parents were called "Mama" and "Papa" by our children in honor of Mama and Papa Tadlock. I wanted to be called the same because of all the love I associate with these names. Back in 1997, I wrote the following poems that hang on the wall in my parents' home:
Lord, may I continue traditions that pass along a love for You, for Your Word, and for one another! Please pass the ice cream!!!