Home for the holidays - one last time

Home for the holidays - one last time

We are celebrating the “Thanksmas” holiday this year with my side of the family.

My niece is getting married Saturday night, and lots of relatives are coming into town who won’t be able to make it back for Christmas a month later. So we’re doing a combo holiday on Thanksgiving.

Blog PhotoLots of families do it, but it took me awhile to get my head around it. I’m sort of a Christmas traditionalist.

And this year will be bittersweet for another reason.

It will be our last holiday of any kind in my mom’s house. She moved into assisted living last spring, and the house is sold.

My heart still drops when I say that.

This isn’t the house I grew up in. We moved out of that one when I was 13.

And it’s not the house where I spent my high school years. My parents didn’t buy this one until I was in college. But it had been in the family for years already — it was my aunt’s house before that, and she hosted family Easter celebrations for years before she passed away.

More important to me, it’s the house where my kids have celebrated every Christmas, and lots of other holidays.

We try to be with both sides of our family every Christmas, in two different cities, or sometimes split the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays between them. But we always managed to make it to “Magu’s house” on Christmas.

This is where my kids put out the plate with the cookies for Santa and carrots for the reindeer the night before.

Where we would all read “The Polar Express” together on Christmas Eve, children and grown-ups each taking a page, right before the kids went to bed — and I could pull my traditional Christmas all-nighter getting everything ready for Santa.

Where all the kids would pile into futons and pullout couches and air mattresses so they could bunk together and wake each other up at some insane hour on Christmas morning.

(I still remember the Christmas Eve when my son was almost 2 and he was so excited he could NOT lay down, much less go to sleep — a common problem at that stage of our lives, if I remember correctly. He was literally dancing in his crib. I think he fell asleep around midnight.)

It’s the house where they’d all line up on Christmas morning with their eyes closed until the cameras were ready and they could dive into the overflowing stockings hanging above the fireplace — that was always the rule, stockings first.

Where they’d tear apart the wrapping and hold up each gift and say “Look, Mom!” or “Thank you, Magu!”

Where, if we were lucky, there’d be enough snow to build snowmen with their cousins, or go down to the park and go sledding.

Where we’d wear T-shirts and even shorts in the winter because my mom liked to keep the heat so high.

It was also the house I came home to from college, and where I lived until I got my apartment. Where my dad would leave notes every morning for me and my mom, telling us whether it was safe to drive or offering a cheery thought for the day. Where I’d stay every time I’d go back to town — to be with Mom when Dad was sick or spend long weekends when my kids were little and my husband was working out of town. Where we had my son’s baptism celebration, our annual Easter egg hunts, birthday parties, anniversaries, wedding and baby showers.

Magu’s house was like the ones in storybooks. Not a cottage, just a 1960s-era brick ranch full of family and memories. It was our center.

It’s hard to believe it will soon be gone. We can’t go back. Life is all about enjoying the now, moving forward, savoring every moment until the next life transition.

And this year offers new opportunities. We’ll be able to be with my husband’s family on Christmas Eve, for the first time in awhile. And we’ll have our own Christmas morning together there.

When I told my kids about the change of plans this year, they were momentarily thrown about the whole “Thanksmas” idea — until they realized they’d still get to see all their Wurth relatives (and get presents), just a month early. And they were happy about seeing their other cousins on Christmas itself.

We are thankful to have families to share these days with, wherever we gather.

A few years ago, we moved Thanksgiving to my sister’s house, as it had gotten too hard to organize everything at Mom’s. After that, it was easier to move the Easter party there, too.

My sister’s house is big and warm and fun. And now there’s a new generation there, keeping us all young at heart and hopeful and looking to the future, to new traditions and new memories.

Life goes on; families grow; memories live forever.

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Kristen.F wrote on November 26, 2014 at 8:11 am

Thanks for sharing this, Julie! It was really neat to be reminded of all the happy memories at Magu's, especially all of the special moments with your kiddos. The happy times we have spent there will always warm my heart.

ErinMB wrote on November 26, 2014 at 8:11 am

It will be bittersweet, but we will always have these great memories! You thought of everything! My mom read it too and loved it.