My wife reminded me this morning that it’s time to comply with a family tradition—the First Robin Party! The tradition is, when the first robin of the year is seen, we have pizza. My wife  saw two robins in our neighbor’s yard this morning. Pizza for supper.

This family tradition started when my daughter was small. A friend of hers said her mother made a cake for their First Robin party. After a bit of consultation, my wife and daughter decided to substitute pizza for the cake.

Works for me.

Families follow and create traditions all the time for various reasons. Following those traditions help build family cohesiveness and solidarity.

When I was in college, the guy across the hall from my dorm room was an orphan. I can’t remember his name after all these years. We, in the dorm, called him Baby Huey after a cartoon character. He stood well over six feet and weighed accordingly. He had a twin sister and they were raised together in the same orphanage. She lived in another dorm across the street.

In Illinois, at that time, they were both wards of the state until they reached age 21. In practice, once they graduated high school, they were on their own. These two managed to acquire rull-ride scholarships so they could remain together. While still living at the orphanage, they decided they were a family and decided to create a family tradition…their common birthday party.

They both had full-ride scholarships, but the scholarships didn’t cover a lot of expenses. As wards of the state, they were allowed to live in the college-owned dorms at 25% of the standard rate. The two of them still had to cover the remaining 75%, plus the usual expenses for clothes, laundry, and personal items that aren’t free.

That meant they had to work. They opened a common bank account, both deposited their paychecks and they both created a budget and shared the costs. It was preparation for life for they knew in a few years they would be separated. It was the time of the draft. He knew he would have to enter the military on graduation…or skip off to Canada, an unrealistic choice.

One common expense both agreed upon was their birthday party. They called it their Family Day. Both were well known and liked. If I remember correctly after all these years, they decided to have a large party for their 20th birthday because it was likely to be the last one before graduation and the military for him.

They had been saving for some time. They hired a hall from one of the local churches, ordered a large cake and sent invitations to a hundred close friends including the Chancellor of the University, in whose office she interned, and the Deans of both their colleges. She was working towards a degree in government and history, he in accounting.

I was invited but didn’t go. My mother was terminal with cancer and I had obligations at home the weekend of their party. I did see photos in the college paper the following week and stories from those who were able to attend.

The Chancellor and both Deans attended the party. The invitees filled the hall. People talked about the party for months. The two of them, sole members of their family, affirmed a tradition to last their lifetime.

They graduated that year and I lost track of them. Baby Huey, as expected, entered the Army. His sister became a staffer for a local Congressman. I’ve often wondered what happened to them.

Traditions are important. I expect Baby Huey and his sister still celebrate their common birthday together. It was a tradition they created when all they had was each other. I wouldn’t be surprised if their family has grown in the last fifty years, and still celebrate Family Day, a foundation tradition  created by a pair of orphans.