The Olympics have torch bearers who run through the streets, flaming torch held high, expressing sublime joy or intense nobility as they run. Marathon participants run for a variety of reasons, many of which express that same joy or nobility. Ordinary family members don’t do much running at all, unless one counts errands and an extracurricular shuttle service.
Throughout my growing up years, carrying a torch meant something other than its current connotation. We carried a torch for a movie star or the girl/boy at school. We carried the torch of freedom in our citizenship and moral fiber. It’s a wonder the town didn’t burn to the ground with all of those flames being held up for all to see.
Few of us got to see an Olympic torch during the fifties. Even our own Student Olympics during elementary school didn’t have a torch. Television brought the Olympic Games to average households every four years during the sixties, which is where I first saw them. Of course, the opening ceremonies, with torch-bearer and Olympic Flame weren’t as long or elaborate then as they are now. Drama and spectacle arrived during the early eighties. Leave it to Hollywood.
All of this brings us to carrying the family torch. Each family has an invisible one, though the flames may be for different purposes. For some that torch stands for pride of place within society. For others it represents the family triumph over poverty and disadvantage. Torches for those prideful of family traditions of church, home, and military honor cut across all strata of society. These are all family torches; the ones that children take from their parents, along the line of ancestral heritage.
Torches smolder at times. They can exhibit rebellion over family roots as much as the opposite. They can glow with remembered suffering from a historical past before bursting into raging flame. While each is sparked by one or more family aspect, only an individual can carry one and that for personal reasons.
People can find a family torch inside themselves, if they look for it. They can discover the personal reason for raising an arm to support that tapered torch. At some point, they must either acknowledge acceptance of “duty” or reject it and seek another.
Each of us has a choice as to which torch we carry for our family. Considering how broad the definition has become for “family,” we should marvel at how many torches one person can juggle at any given time. The reasons and purposes of torches have broadened as well.
At the end of the day, the person needs to ask herself, “Which torch did I choose today?” and “Should I choose to bear that flaming burden tomorrow?”
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