Christmas, like the rest of 2020, feels different this year. But for us that was not only because our family is spread out farther than we like. Though yes, having our middle son Joshua arrive in Budapest from England, and being able to hug a child for the first time since February, and to hug this child for the first time since last Christmas felt miraculous.
For us, the biggest difference happened on Dec. 19th, when we finally, after signing closing papers on July 4th, got the keys to our new home in Szeged. It has been a very long six months of waiting and uncertainty and changing dates and plans, a long six months of life on hold or in a strange waiting pattern. On top of the changes and stress of the pandemic and all that upheaval in daily lives, for us has also been a strange place of ‘leaving Budapest but not yet in Szeged’, that stretched from an initial thought of moving in September, to October….to December…now to… maybe February or March.
Because getting those keys also meant we got to spend more than just an initial half-hour viewing tour with the previous owners and their children very present along with all their belongings. And while we still deeply love our new home and the huge, 20-year answer to prayer that it is, we now know that we’re entering a phase of more house renovations than we’d expected. But that’s all mixed with excitement and much more ‘busy-ness’ than we’ve experienced for all of this subdued, “at-home”, 2020.
So Christmas 2020 has been one of house plans, brains that won’t turn off to sleep as we consider moving the kitchen, adding walls, replacing electrical and heating and myriad of little changes that will need to be done soon, before we replace the floors (the one change we’d planned for and expected!). Joshua was a trooper, as he joined us in Szeged to camp out in our new place the weekend before Christmas, diving in to remove old flooring and edging and as much ‘heavy lifting’ work as Norbi could find while we had Joshua’s brawn to help.
I’ve not done nearly as much holiday decorating as we normally do – partially from lack of energy, but also, mostly, because none of us want to un-decorate on top of packing to move. But with our two recent Christmases back in the US in temporary –living, I’ve gotten more used to less of our old collection of décor than having it. And as long as we’re playing Christmas music and have a seasonal Yankee Candle wafting, it feels like Christmas no matter what the house looks like.
And then we managed to insert some family-togetherness across the miles, thanks to what has become an old-standby for our family but that the rest of the world has discovered this year – video calls. We’ve used Skype for years. Josiah and Julia took all the safety precautions and flew to be with Aubrieanne in Colorado for a few days, their first visit with her since October. It has been a rough year to long-distance parent, as each visit has added health risks that you have to weigh against the emotional toll of not seeing each other. Though, at four years old, Aubrie is getting past being more upset by phone calls and Skypes when she wants to see the person for real, and they’re doing more regular such calls now on top of the visits. We did a fun video call with them and Julia’s dad. Aubrie created some crafts while Nagyi, Grandpa Norbi and Grandpa Mike interacted with her. It was precious and helped soothe the ache I feel in missing her so very much.
On Christmas Day we scheduled a Big Family Skype video call with most of my extended family, Josiah and Julia brought in their laptop to Grandma so she could see her son, most of his kids, their spouses and kids and all my crew. There was tons of laughter, lots of silliness, chaos and sound issues, but oh it was special to see everyone ‘together’ as it were. (Epic fail and we didn’t plan a good photo time while we were all on, the best is one taken while my sister’s fiance was playing around with backgrounds and we were all laughing, just before my parents got on the call) We are not yet making official ‘plans’ for 2021, but do hope to get to the US to see our kids there just as soon as is feasible to do so. Besides the difficulty of traveling right now, both our kids in California are living with elderly grandparents and we’re all being extra careful and aware we can’t just get off a plane and show up at their homes, as much as I’m dying to do so. Joshua, in England, also got his own place this year, renting a house with a roommate, a first for them both and we’re also eager to travel there and see his new home and meet more of his community in Norwich.
I’m thankful our house appears to be keeping us busy through the spring at least, helping to pass this time until we can travel – we have high hopes for summer 2021, but are also prepared to be patient, 2020 taught us to hold any such plans lightly. For now I’ll settle on plans with our new contractor, focus on our twenty-year dream home coming true, and rejoice in more traveling to my kids when it’s safe to do so.
We didn’t do any official Christmas Cards this year, maybe I’ll get some out next year with our new mailing address! So consider this your Christmas Card and 2020 update for our family.
We’re all safe and healthy.
- Josiah, while on furlough since March, is still officially a Disney employee, something we are all grateful for in the midst of so many of his fellow Cast Members who have lost their jobs. He has also continued with his online university courses that Disney is paying for, a huge blessing not just for the education, but this year to give him structure and something to fill his time. His wife Julia has recently changed jobs from her very stressful position at Sprouts grocery store to Manager at a nearby Pac-Sun clothes store, as well as continuing her studies at CSUN, all online this year – she’s almost ready to graduate! We’re so proud of her. Aubrieanne turned four (FOUR!!) in October. They scratched plans for her to begin Preschool in the fall due to Covid, but she’s smart as a whip and will have no problem diving into Kindergarten directly.
- Joshua continues to work for the same company as Norbi, and he’s expressed thankfulness this year as his job remained steady and constant in the midst of so many changes and stresses everywhere else. He has also remained in Norwich and an active member at Servant’s Church, where he’s had to learn on the go as they switched to live-streaming and he’s their now-very-valuable sound man. He’d been renting a room from a friend, who got married in November, so in October Joshua and Rory rented their own place to share instead. Rory has learned there are a lot more Star Wars themed house-hold products than he had thought.
- Anna and Shiloh moved in with Shiloh’s parents (plus sister and Grandpa) back in March, as they both lost jobs due to the first wave of Covid and restaurant closures. It was a wise move and they’ve been grateful for the time near his family in the midst of this trying year. Shiloh got a job at El Pollo Loco and then DoorDash food delivery, and Anna finally, recently got a job in a nearby mall’s American Eagle clothes store. Since getting married they’ve had to start over too many times, but we’re so proud of their joy throughout. They still have some big dreams, 2020 has just slowed them down a bit but certainly not knocked them down at all. They’ve also discovered fish, and have two amazing aquariums that have proven calming and entertaining.
Our family has learned, and enjoyed, the importance on slowing down this year has enforced. We don’t expect it to remain this slow forever, so are savoring it while we can. It has also only highlighted how precious the times we are all together are, I’ve never been one to take them for granted, but will do so even less going forward. Christmas music has been especially significant to me this year, bringing both comforting tradition and much-needed celebration and joy into this last month of a year like we’ve not experienced before. It’s reminded me, daily, that Christmas, and the reason for Christmas, has not changed one bit, even if our celebration of it has been tweaked this year. Jesus still came as a babe, our Emmanuel, and His Peace and Comfort are still available for us all. Merry Christmas! We wish safety and togetherness, in whatever method is best for you and yours, in this Holiday Season and in the coming New Year!