Home for Christmas
Our first home in NY was a brand-new garden apartment. That’s what it was called, a garden apartment; I don’t know why, there was no garden. Our first baby was born here, so it was a Garden of Eden for us. We shared our Christmas with a child from an orphanage. Our Open Door Tradition, our family’s version of hospitality, began here. That followed us to every home and became a trademark of our family.
We moved from that one-bedroom apartment in Wappinger Falls, NY, to a rental house in Hopewell Junction. Our brick Cape Cod near the Taconic Parkway looked so pretty decorated for Christmas with our few ornaments. Our second daughter was born in this home. I loved living in the country, the big garden, the wild canaries, our one neighbor, the elderly landlords who came from the city on weekends. It was an exotic and snowy paradise. We already learned that all it took to make a home, was us, together.
When IBM transferred us to Columbus, Ohio, we landed in a townhouse. This was a new concept for us, and we enjoyed it while we were there, sharing the yard with other young families with small children; but we were ready to be homeowners. Coming up with a down payment was a bit of a stretch for us, but we managed, and we moved before our third child arrived. This was to a three-bedroom house with an upstairs; brick on the bottom, frame on top; an older neighborhood; shutters; overgrown shrubberies, cranky neighbor. This was where we learned our first lessons in maintenance, yardwork, and neighbors. When a beautiful snow covered the ground, I baked cookies, called a few neighbors, put the girls on a sled and pulled them down the road. It was our first caroling party, a tradition begun in 1966, and continued until 2000. We loved our starter home, and thought we’d stay forever.
We outgrew the house with baby number four and we moved to a new construction, a Tudor in a new housing development, in time for kindergarten at the neighborhood school. Our church was in the back yard, and we were surrounded by parishioners who became lifelong friends. Our most unique decoration that Christmas was a silver wreath made from IBM punch cards. Every IBM family made one! We added child number 5, built a screened porch and patio, and planned to stay forever. The week the porch was finished, we packed and took the next transfer to Raleigh, NC.
Our new Dutch Colonial in a country club development was beautiful and needed no work at all. All it needed was furniture, which we didn’t have a lot of. The house was modeled after The Tavern in Colonial Williamsburg, so decorations for this house involved learning to make Williamsburgish-style decorations. Child number six was born here. We enjoyed the amenities until it was time to move to Lexington, KY.
Here we lived in an older brick ranch in a more rural setting. Though it was a neighborhood with a lot of neighbors, the rolling blue grass and area horse farms gave it a rural feel. We had many friends here, and loved our home – once we finally finished the remodeling. Every window that Christmas held an electric candle I bought at a garage sale for a quarter each. Then, we moved to Gaithersburg, MD, taking our candles, carols, and cookies with us.
We were now in suburban D.C., a commuter neighborhood. This was a “planned” community, with everything built in for convenience, schools, pools, offices, and everything laced together by bike paths that went everywhere safely; a great place to raise kids, and we planned to stay put. In this neighborhood I learned to make gingerbread houses. Our 7th child was born here. On her first birthday we transferred to Atlanta, GA The gingerbread tradition moved with us, reminding me every year of those friends.
Our beautiful new home in Atlanta was in a bedroom community, Sandy Springs, on the north side of Atlanta, in a cluster neighborhood of cul-de-sacs. Safe, convenient, good schools, close to church and parochial school. We stayed in that house for eighteen years. All seven kids were raised there, graduated from high school, left home, got married. It was in this home that we celebrated years of traditions from all those Christmases and friends, gone before.
Our next move was the first one that wasn’t job related; it was the first one whose location we chose; it was the first home we planned and built; it was our retirement dream. We planned to stay there forever.
We’ve been in our big log home in the mountains for twenty years now, longer than we’ve lived anywhere. We love Sapphire Valley. The house is larger than two people need. It’s a beautiful area. I can’t think of anywhere I’d rather live. But, it’s a seasonal place. Many of the friends we had no longer come. We don’t have neighbors. We used to be active in the country club. Now we aren’t. We used to golf and ski and hike. Now we don’t. Our needs have changed. We didn’t outgrow this house. It outgrew us.
It’s interesting how the home speaks to us, letting us know it’s time to move on. I don’t want to listen. I know and love every creak of the floor, every pop in the logs, every beautiful change of season. I argue with the house, “But, I love you. I don’t want to go.” But House continues to nudge us. “It’s time to let me go.” This might be our last Christmas in this house. We’ll pack up our gingerbread recipe, years of ornaments, and find something completely unexpected that will become home once again, where we’ll be for Christmas