I’ve always loved traditions. I stayed in central New Jersey for most of my life, not because I loved the area, but I loved the people and the gatherings we created. I especially loved hosting—whether it’s just one friend spending the night or 70 people stuffed in my basement apartment exchanging gag gifts around a skinny Christmas tree.
When I moved to California and, eventually, to NY state, my thought was that I’d go back “home” to keep my traditions going. I could stay at my parent’s for Labor Day and for Christmas Eve Eve and continue hosting the parties I’ve been having for decades. The first Labor Day back east was easy enough, since I was living in my parents’ garage while house-hunting. (I did have to temporarily deflate my bed so we could have the party.) Christmas Eve Eve (a party I’ve had since 2004) was more difficult. I was moved in upstate and had to rely on the kindness of my sister and her then-boyfriend (now fiancé!) to let me use their space, where I used to live and host. It worked out in the end, but it added logistical pressure to the holiday season, which I just wanted to enjoy.
This year, I have a bachelorette trip to Austin on Labor Day weekend. For the first time in maybe my entire life, there won’t be a party at my childhood home. Well, there might be, but not to its usual scale. I don’t expect to hold my Christmas Eve Eve party, either. It stings to skip or end these traditions, but it’s time to close that chapter and begin a new one.
The seasons here are amplified. Winter is about moving snow, stoking fires, and mushing. This leaves little time or energy to plan parties. It also makes it a lot harder for friends to get here safely. Spring is wet, wet, and more wet. The snow melts, the ground thaws, and the rain doesn’t stop. Black flies appear in swarms. I’ve learned that it’s hardly a time I want to be here, let alone have guests suffer through it.
That leaves summer and fall, the seasons far less brutal and soggy. For the most part, summer has been sunny and mild. The black flies disappeared as suddenly as they arrived. Daytime hits between 70°F and 80°F, and the nights sink back to 60°F, keeping the house cool without air conditioning. I hosted my “local” friends to ring in the solstice. None of them actually live that close, but they’re not 300 miles away, and that’s important. It felt like a very real victory to sit around a fire with people I didn’t know a year ago, in a place I didn’t own a year ago.
The Fourth of July fell on a Thursday this year, and a few friends (old and new) managed to take an extra-long weekend to visit. This holiday has never been one of my traditions, but given the opportunity, it might become one. As luck should have it, the mild temperatures skipped town and we had our first 90°F day. We managed to get by with cold drinks, dips in Lake Ontario, and a garden hose. We even caught some fireworks down in Syracuse.
Another set of traditions has emerged out of almost all my friends’ visits here: diner breakfast at Artie's, followed by flea markets, and ending with hikes at Salmon River Falls. I first visited the falls before my walkthrough of this house, and it may have sealed the deal more than the walkthrough. The falls and the area surrounding them are like an illustration for what each season brings to the north country. When I first saw them in late summer, hints of autumn were already creeping in. In winter, the face of the falls was nearly frozen solid with long tusks of ice shooting down the sides of the gorge. The ground was under a layer of snow and the moisture from the falls made the trails crunchy and slippery. By spring, everything was surging with the thaw and excess rain water. And now, as summer unfolds, lush green has taken over and the hum of bugs echoes the falling water.
So it goes, these cycles, the passing of time. Traditions end and new ones replace them. Relationships fade and appear, almost overnight, like wildflowers. You find a new tribe to combine with the old; the ones who stick around and matter most. It makes a foreign, lonely place finally feel like home.