Unless you have lived under a rock for the past 10 plus years, are unable to use a radio or somehow managed to avoid being in a car after 7pm weekdays, then chances are you know of the radio personality Delilah. My memories of her raspy voice, the overly mushy callers pouring their hearts out and Delilah’s knack for choosing a song dedication to perfectly match her caller’s sappy story go way back to a time I frequently drove the I-95 corridor between New York and Virginia over a decade ago. Although her narratives cause excessive gagging and the chosen music can slip listeners dangerously into coma territory, the evening Delilah show is one thing a radio can consistently pick up regardless to what stretch of road you find yourself on from coast-to-coast. Delilah continues to reach my ears through the radio waves, encouraging her listeners to “love someone tonight,” whether life has me on I-95 in the Northeast, California’s Pacific Highway, or I-94 in Chicago. She has evolved from Chicken Soup for the Romantic’s soul into an overly moral, Dr. Phil meets Sally Jesse Raphael on saccharine laced crack irritating preacher, yet here I sit in a hotel room in San Antonio, Texas listening to her little program which causes me to ponder; how many things in life do we do not because we enjoy it, pays the bills or provides others any pleasure, but simply because it is familiar?
It is not hard to think of dozens of things we do, eat, or listen to for reasons other then the connection they provide to the past. Holiday traditions are an excellent example of this; cranberry sauce that maintains the shape of the can, sweet potatoes with marshmallows, pickled herring, capozzelli (lamb’s head for you non-Italians), lutefisk (cod soaked in lye for you non-Scandinavians). Each one of us can attest to the items that hit our table during celebrations that either sit untouched for the entire meal or are consumed under great amounts of protest. Holiday after holiday, year after year, we muster up the courage to cook and consume a variety of foods because somehow the holiday would not be the same without them. The comfort and consistency we find in these items and remind us of our past and connect us to family and strangers alike.
Time goes by, years fly, generations pass and after a while no one remembers why we streak campus on the day of the first snowfall, watch the mind-numbing Yule log burning bright on channel 11, haze underclassmen with duct tape and cans of shaving cream, toilet paper and parade around school on the last day of class, or wear an unflattering shade of white in our weddings. We simply do these silly, crazy or disgusting things because others; extended family, friends of friends of friends, distinguished alumni, and random people from distant history, established the traditions and laid the path to follow long before we were even blips on the radar screen of life.How does the Delilah evening radio program connect with the rich tapestry of traditions that binds us to the past? They are linked through the similar emotions they invoked; comfort, familiarity, warmth and stability, feelings so powerful they often cause us to do things we do not like or understand just to connect us with the past, strengthen our relationships, and feel secure in our chaotic world. Each time I hear of a person who dismisses traditions as “old-fashion,” outdated or stupid I cannot help but think how they miss the big picture; generations of people, alive and dead, connected through shared customs. These traditions might evolve as families grow, cultures merge and the world progresses, but at the heart they remain a keystone in the building block of our lives.
So here I sit, listening to a radio program because it connects me to a time long ago when life often had me stranded in a car or a hotel room far away from home yearning for a little company; Delilah provided that company. What began as means to get me through long drives turned into a personal ritual anytime work sends me far from home. It is the same reason I dye eggs at Easter although I hate my eggs hard boiled, blow out candles when I would rather blow past a birthday, wrestle with tangled Christmas lights when it is 20 below outside, and recite the traditional lord’s prayer even when a church uses the modern version; the more things change, the more important it is do some things the same. As the late Deborah Kerr said in “An Affair to Remember,” “Winter must be cold for those with no warm memories,” and many memories are warmer when shared repeatedly with others over the course of a lifetime.