'Home' for the holidays differs for CG families


By Kristi Langenbacher

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Home for the holidays. For many military families it’s a relative term. It could mean your hometown, or your spouses’ hometown. It might be the place you’ve been stationed the longest, the most number of times, or the place you’re currently stationed. For many military families it might be the one place that elicits nostalgic memories, or several different places that feel like home.

For our family, it’s difficult to determine which place is “home.” My husband is originally from Minnesota, and has been in the Coast Guard for nearly 28 years. We’ve been married 21 years, and during that time we’ve been stationed in nine different places around the country. We’ve lived in several places twice, including North Carolina, Washington state and California – and each of those could vie for the term “home.”

We’ve also spent many holidays with relatives in my husband’s hometown in Northern Minnesota, including last Christmas when we had the opportunity to drive out on a frozen lake and fish from the holes which were drilled inside of a cabin atop the frozen water.

We’ve spent a total of six years living in North Carolina and nearly six years in California – where we are currently stationed. And we spent five years in my hometown of Port Angeles, Wash., which is also where we met and got married. It’s also where we have the most extended family living in one place.

So, this year, we spent the holidays in my hometown in Washington – one of the places which could be considered our family’s home. Our kids, now teenagers, were excited about spending the holidays with their grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles. They were also looking forward to the possibility of waking up to a white Christmas, as they were certain we wouldn’t be getting snow in California.

They didn’t complain when we woke them up at 2 a.m. on Christmas Eve to catch a flight to Seattle, and were excited to know that the flight was less than two hours long. After many cross-country flights that often took up most of a day on two different planes, the flight was short.

They even took it in stride when the flight attendant announced that the jet bridge had malfunctioned, and therefore we would need to wait for stairs to be rolled in so that we could climb down from the back exit of the plane.

Once outside, our daughter took a deep breath of the brisk air and exclaimed that it smelled “like winter and goodness.”

Inside the airport we were greeted by Santa and an elf, and also caught a glimpse of a snowman and fairy princess. Santa told us that the merchants’ association brought them in for the holidays, and they would be having a parade in the airport later that day.

We didn’t stay for the parade, as we still had a few hours to drive on Christmas Eve. Instead, we visited with my aunt, uncle and cousins in Seattle and continued on to my parents’ house. It was like a scene from a movie as we pulled into their driveway and a few snowflakes began to fall. By the time we had finished unloading the car, it was dusted with fluffy white snow, which continued to fall throughout the evening.

We awoke to a white Christmas and quickly opened presents before making the short drive to my sister’s house. The kids spent the day building snowmen, sledding and even snowboarding on the hill in the backyard.

The day after Christmas we welcomed more relatives to the area, as 26 of us gathered at my sister’s house to celebrate the season. For this year, at least, it definitely felt like we were home for the holidays.

Kristi Langenbacher is a Coast Guard spouse and writes about military family life.