Home for the holidays means different things to different people and to me the meaning has changed as I journey through this life time. When I was a child it meant going to Grandma and Grandpa Baumann’s home on Christmas Day with the anticipation of presents and having our traditional German dinner of Sauerbraten, potato dumplings and spiced apple slices. My most memorable one was Christmas 1966. I had graduated from boot camp at Great Lakes, IL. On Dec. 21 and would be home for two weeks before going to my first duty station for six months in Pensacola, Florida. I not only got to celebrate the holidays at home, but also got to see many of my friends that I felt I probably would not see for a couple of years.
Christmas 1967 was spent in Taipei, Taiwan, half way around the world at my first duty station, being very home sick, but the group I was with since June managed to make the holidays memorable with many work and house parties and lots of treats at work. I went home on a 30 day leave in September of 1968 and met the love of my life on a blind date and got engaged eleven days later. Christmas 1968 was spent in Yokosuka, Japan where my ship, the U.S.S. Oklahoma City was home ported. Some of the guys had their families there so I volunteered to take a couple of extra watches so they could enjoy the holiday with their families. I remember feeling very sorry for myself because I would not be able to spend Christmas with my fiancée. I ended up eating Christmas dinner by myself at the base restaurant between watches. I had spent almost a weeks pay on a very satisfying phone call home to my fiancée where we told each other we would be together for the next one and all of the rest after that and we have for the last 43 years.
I took leave in June of 1969, flew home, got married and my wife went back to Japan with me as a Navy wife for the last year and a half of my Navy commitment. Home for the holidays, Christmas 1969 is probably one of my most memorable. We pulled into port in Yokosuka, Japan on December 21, I knew I would be off on December 25 and couldn’t wait to celebrate our first Christmas as husband and wife, even though we were apart from family and friends. Lauralyn had waited until I got home so we could put up our first Christmas tree together. Her mom had sent us a two foot high bottle brush tree that we put on our chow table in the front window and decorated with lights, ornaments and of course tinsel. Relatives had sent us so many presents that I wasn’t sure how we were going to get every thing home. We also had received about 50 Christmas cards that we opened together before Christmas and tacked up to one of the walls. Still one of my favorite pictures because it showed how much our relatives and friends cared for us. Our first Christmas will always be one of my most memorable, just because we were together.
I got out of the Navy in September 1970 and we couldn’t wait to get home to family and friends and spend Christmas with all of them. Before Christmas we had to do Thanksgiving and both families wanted us with them on that day. We ended up doing the whole turkey dinner at noon at my parents home and then again at my in-laws. We knew we had to do something different for Christmas because it was way too much food and way to much relative time all in one day. Luckily my parents usually did Christmas on Christmas Eve and her parents preferred to have theirs on Christmas Day so it was going to work out fine. Daughter came along in 1971 and son in 1975 and that put a whole new spin on home for the holidays. We enjoyed being with relatives, but we also wanted some alone time with the kids in our own home. We started to learn how to balance our time between everyone that wanted us with them and we really did enjoy the holidays.
Then came a work transfer to Green Bay, Wisconsin and a four to five hour road trip home to Milwaukee in the middle of normally snowy winter, with the car packed to the top and two kids, are we there yet? After six years I got transferred back to Milwaukee and lived in historic Cedarburg for the next ten years. It made the holidays so much easier and more enjoyable because we didn’t have the stress of the winter road trips. We were indeed once again home for the holidays.
Then came my last work transfer to Madison, Wisconsin and we ended up buying a home in Waunakee, Wisconsin about a two hour ride from parents and friends. It was easier for us now because the children were gone, there were just the two of us to road trip and the ride was only two hours. Grand children began entering our life in 1998 and that once again changed our Christmas get together. Along with the addition of grandchildren, the next generation, came the loss of our mothers and my dad. The memory of my mother’s passing about a week before Christmas and my Dad’s on January 1, has changed the meaning of home for the holidays, but it has gotten better for me with time and with knowing how all the grandkids look forward to Christmas as I did as a child.
For a while I cooked breakfast brunch with the entire family at our daughter’s home the weekend before or after Christmas because everyone had work commitments and everyone wanted to be at their own home for Christmas Day and it started a new tradition. In recent years we have gone back to having Christmas at my father-in-laws home because it is getting harder for him to travel and we want to make sure he is included.
So what does it mean to be “Home For The Holidays?” To me it means memories of holidays past, getting together with friends and family, enjoying good food, even if it’s no longer sauerbraten, lively conversation, very energetic children and just simply being together. We should never take these times together for granted because they are creating memories for our future generations and I‘m hoping they will all be fond memories. Only time will tell how or where future Christmas’s will be celebrated, but I know we will some how find a way to get together and in our hearts we will be “Home For The Holidays.