Our visits to Paris were hands-on

As I finished watching "Fiddler on the Roof," I thought about Tevye, the Jewish milkman, who drives home one of the themes of the film when he says, "And how do we keep our balance? That I can tell you in one word: tradition!"

We don't hear much about tradition anymore. It may occasionally cross our minds at times such as when we're eating Thanksgiving turkey off Grandma's china.

Do we no longer cherish tradition - those intimate threads of familiarity we weave into the fabric of our families? I decided to ask my three children, who are young adults, to reflect on their childhoods. Could they identify traditions in our family?

"Every Easter you made a carrot cake in the shape of a bunny," said Lori. "I liked the black jelly beans for eyes and the uncooked spaghetti for whiskers."

"I remember at bedtime you would say, 'The first one in bed gets the very first kiss,' and we'd race to dive under the covers," said Betsy.

Steven glanced at his older sisters with a grin and then added, "I hate to admit it, but I think our crazy tradition with the Eiffel Tower was awesome." All three nodded in agreement.

Our Eiffel Tower tradition began innocently enough one summer, while our family was camping in France. After a day of sightseeing in Paris, we trudged across the grass as we left the Eiffel Tower. Suddenly, 12-year-old Betsy sprinted from under the famous landmark.

"Guess what?" she asked. "I am the only person in the family ... who touched the Eiffel Tower last!"

Six-year-old Steven burst into tears. "That's not fair, Bets!" he sobbed. "I told you I was the champ because I touched the Eiffel Tower last. Now you are!"

Betsy responded with a victorious grin.

I felt this would be the end of the competition - but I was wrong.

We didn't visit Paris again together, but over the years all family members eventually made their way back.

When Betsy and Lori were in high school, they mowed lawns and baby-sat to earn enough money to revisit Europe. They made an effort to go to Paris so they could touch the Eiffel Tower together.

Another summer, Lori lived with family friends in the Netherlands. When they spent a week in Paris, Lori became the one who had last touched the tower.

A few years later, my husband and I traveled to France. We had seen enough of Paris during our family trip, but our tradition compelled us to drive through heavy traffic to the Eiffel Tower. Jim kept the engine running while I dashed to the famous structure, touched it, and raced back to the car as Parisians stared.

While Steven was in college, he and a friend backpacked around Europe. After he returned, I asked him the important question: "Did you touch the Eiffel Tower?"

"Of course I did!" he replied without hesitation. "Now I'm the family member who touched it last!"

After Lori's wedding, she and her husband traveled to Europe. When they talked about their honeymoon, she made no mention of touching the Eiffel Tower. Then she showed us her photo album. The page of honor was reserved for three important pictures. The first focused on Lori's hand in the foreground with the Eiffel Tower in the background. She labeled it "Will she?"

The next picture captured Lori's hand inches from the Tower. The caption read, "Getting closer!"

The last picture showed Lori's hand on the Eiffel Tower. The words read, "Yeah! She did it!"

We've since lost track of who touched the Eiffel Tower last. It's no longer important. What is important is making precious family memories, whether it's an Easter bunny cake, or a bedtime kiss.

Our family realizes our competition to touch the Eiffel Tower last was a silly tradition. But as I learned from Tevye, without tradition, our lives would be as shaky as a fiddler on a roof.

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