Thoughts of a Celebration, and a Goodbye | The Socjournal

In my introductory Sociology courses, I teach my students about social norms and customs, often without applying the ideas and concepts to my own life.  For one, real life is different than a text book, right?  However, perhaps there is more to the story.  Perhaps I am afraid to determine the weakness within my own small society which explains why the death of my sister has dissolved the glue which bound me together with my family.  While I have conducted much study on how the family structure works and influences people in following generations,  I think my family is guilty of breaking certain normative values, which society and popular media, have dictated to us for years.

Symbolic Interactionists feel that behaviors are inherent based upon the social cues learned from those important figures in one’s life.  For example, the way we celebrate Christmas is a prime example of how we perpetuate behaviors, better known as traditions, during certain times of the year.  No matter how Scrooge-like I am, I still look forward to certain aspects of the Christmas season, aspects which have been commonplace in my family for more than three decades.

While the typical celebrations are no longer pertinent in our lives, we struggle to determine new norms for our social unit.  While we can no sooner revert back to past experiences and habits, except in memory, we must move forward to determine how we change our symbolic gestures toward one another for the future.

I am well aware of the fact that our family is not unique in the fact that we not only lost a loved one, but in our isolated state, it feels as if we have experienced an event of which others cannot relate.  The celebrations of holidays, a social expectation which encourages feelings of discontent by their very nature, take on a difficult and sadly dark tone when one must face them without an ever present force no longer with us.

My sister, of course, was this force. I would always consider her to be the architect of any celebration.  Any time, any place, anywhere, my sister would come to the rescue with a cake, a gift, and a decoration.  With her assistance, Christmas would see mountains of gifts, cookouts would see a virtual buffet of food, and birthdays would be made complete with cards and the expected ice-cream cake.

For more than 10 months, I have wondered how all of these situations would differ after her death.  Would life really go on without our Conni?  Would we find things to celebrate from now on?  The answer is yet to come, as we have not met the one-year mark since her passing. With only the memories to sustain us, my family has remained in a state of anomie for some time, unsure how to act, or how to re-craft our perceptions of holidays, togetherness and our interfamilial relationships.

I suppose this article could explore the differences between historical acceptance of death, and that of today.  However, it was not the intent.  While I started this article in hopes of discussing more about how we look at the holidays, it turned into a personal discussion of how I view them.  While I cannot apply the idea of our personal interactions to a general audience, I felt I could write a short article on how they can be interrupted on a personal level.  This article became less of an informative view of society and special occasions, and more of a tribute to a life cut short.

And, I must say, I’m ok with that.

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