Home for the Holidays


This month’s topic for GeneaChat is Home for the Holidays. To see Cheri’s original post visit the post here, the questions she asks are:

  • When you think about home, what does it mean?
  • Is it a certain house, a city or country?
  • Who is there?
  • Who do you wish was there?
  • What about it makes it special to you?
  • Are there traditions and activities that make going home special?
  • How do you feel when you are there?
  • If home is an actual house or apartment, do you have a picture of it?

If you would have asked me two years ago what ‘home’ meant to me, I would have told you about the two houses we lived in while growing up. These are the houses that I remember most because one is where we celebrated with Ida (my paternal grandmother) and the other is the house that I lived in during High School, which is also the house that we celebrated holidays at when my children were little.

2121 W. Cuyler. Our home from 1974 – 1979.

Cuyler House

When we lived there it was a two flat, Grandma Ida lived on the second floor and we lived on the first. The holidays always included all the aunts, uncles and cousins. Plus Grandpa Buddy. He was our bonus grandpa. Growing up we did not understand that everyone did not have this bonus grandfather. Buddy was Ida’s first husband. It was nice that they moved passed the divorce enough that they could come together and share the holidays. I know that our family was not one of great financial means, but the bottom of her tree was always full. Her coffee table was pushed under the picture window and the tree was set upon it. the gifts flowed from the table to the floor. Thinking back today it still seems like there were present for days! The feelings I get when I think of holidays here or even just the house and people in it is love. I knew I was loved and safe. My days from age 4 – 8 were spent in this house and I will forever keep it in my heart.

West Circle House

We moved into the West Circle House when I was in high school, it was a large home. The largest that we had ever lived in. The size of the house and the land it was on definitely shows the growth in the family financials. Though the house was large enough to hold large family functions, they were minimal. Don’t get me wrong we had plenty of backyard pool parties in the summer. But I do not recall big family holidays here. However this is the home were our children, the grandchildren, had their holidays. There were plenty of us, up to nine grandkids from my dad’s three children. The trees here were always large, and the underneath was always impressive. When thinking about this house and holidays my feelings are very conflicted. I love the thoughts of all the kids being small and those memories are great. Unfortunately, the rest is not always the best.

Current Homes

Today the story changes based on why you are asking. Now home is my mother-in-laws house. This is where we celebrate a majority of the holidays. We celebrate Easter and Christmas here and I look forward to it. The house is usually filled with 30 – 60 people, and this is just immediate family: children, in-laws, nieces, nephews and great nieces and nephews. I love the feel of a large family coming together. I assume that comes from having holidays with Ida when I was younger, the families were blended (she had six children between her two marriages). You have to go from room to room to make sure you visit with everyone, otherwise you will miss someone. We spend hours here on Christmas eve waiting for Santa to make his yearly deposit of gifts for the good children. Feelings that come to me when I think of holidays here is love, acceptance, and security.

But, when we visited Ireland last year I never expected to feel like I was home. That is exactly what happened. After being in Dublin for two days I knew I did not want to leave (and I still had so much to see). After seeing most of Ireland I understood the call (or yearning) that my heart had heard for years.

Home now means so much more than just a place you lived or celebrated the holidays. It is a feeling of belonging to a place or land.

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About Terri

Terri O’Connell is a professional genealogist in the Chicago area, focusing on Midwestern United States Genealogy, with a main focus in Illinois and a special interest in Irish research. She is also the owner of Cruise Planners – O’Connell Cruise and Travel, a full service travel company. Their mission is to encompass the full family: vacations, reunions, and history travel. Terri is a travel enthusiast with a passion for genealogy and enjoys bringing the two together to assist her clients in their travel needs. You can find Terri online at www.facebook.com/cruiseplannersoconnell, www.facebook.com/tracingmyfamily. Terri is the Executive Director of The In-Depth Genealogist, www.theindepthgenealogist.com.

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