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My Family Goes Full Home-For-The-Holidays Even Though We All Live Nearby

It’s a 3-day full family sleepover at grandma’s, even though we live just 45 minutes away.

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I’m very lucky that my idea of “going home” for Christmas is a 45-minute drive down the interstate. My parents and both of my siblings all live within an hour of me in any direction, and that means the holidays are easy for us to coordinate.

But I had a vision. I wanted more. I wanted those Hallmark Christmas movies where families are telling each other goodnight after they’ve decorated Christmas cookies and the dad is always finding one of his children sitting at the kitchen table in the glow of the Christmas tree so they can have a heart-to-heart and everyone’s eating breakfast together and planning a Christmas activity.

I wanted the Griswold family Christmas. But with a little less Cousin Eddie and definitely less squirrel and mayhem.

So I pretend — and my siblings do, too. We create a whole holiday vacation during our kids’ Thanksgiving breaks, Sunday through Wednesday, and pack our bags for three days at my mom’s with all seven of her grandchildren. This year is our fourth year — our kids now call it Cousin Camp — and we have the prep work down to an art. My mom calls me a few weeks before and we plan out all the meals. We figure out what Christmas craft we’ll do with the kids, and where we’ll make them all sleep this year as they outgrow sharing the pull-out sofa bed. We line up a few Christmas movies and cocktails that we want to enjoy at the end of the night, but my mom also keeps up with the best Hallmark movies to have just playing throughout the day. We pick a Christmas puzzle to work on, and everyone wears their favorite Christmas jammies.

We soak up our favorite part of Christmas — being together — and for a few days, my mom gets to have all of her little chicks back in the nest.

My Mom usually saves one of her Christmas trees for the grandchildren to decorate (my Mom has nine trees — perhaps you are sensing a theme?) and my siblings and I get to enjoy Christmas at “home” again. We can’t completely regress, of course. I help serve dinner (although Mom makes our childhood favorites for us) and clean the kitchen and we still have kids to take care of, but there’s something so special about being together in our childhood home. About my mom bringing me a cup of coffee in the guest room and offering to take the baby out with her while I wake up. About watching A Very Brady Christmas, arguably one of the worst Christmas movies ever made, and laugh-crying through the whole thing. About having all of the cousins together for crafting and Christmas puzzles and games as we reminisce about the early Christmas mornings where my siblings and I begged to see what Santa brought us and our parents begged us to let them sleep until at least 6 a.m.

My family and I can see each other anytime we want — we know how lucky we are to be so close. But it’s hard to pull out the board games on Christmas Day when everyone’s exhausted and still has to drive home. Thanksgiving finds most of us sitting around the table and talking long after the dinner’s been cleared, but we’re not quite ready to break out the paint-your-own-ornament kit for the kids or start a movie that night.

But we can make that time on our pretend holiday vacation. We soak up our favorite part of Christmas — being together — and for a few days, my mom gets to have all of her little chicks back in the nest. She gets to make shepherd’s pie and tuck us into bed (yes, I make her tuck me into bed, what’s the point of going home if I don’t?) and sit with us under the glow of her Christmas tree, our childhood ornaments still dangling on the branches.

She didn’t get to go home to England for Christmas very often when we were little, so she had to make a new home with new traditions and memories with us. She’s not ready to give that up just because we have children of our own — and neither are we.

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