Posted by: Leigh Reynolds | December 28, 2013


Family Limo Ride through the Branson Christmas Lights

Family Limo Ride through the Branson Christmas Lights

We started this tradition 4 years ago – Daddy wanted us to all get together in the mountains for Christmas, so he rented a beautiful home in the mountains at Estes Park, CO and off we all went; my sisters and our families all packed into one house with our folks. It was wild and wacky and wonderfully fun. We decided to dub it Reinukah – a 4 night Reinhart Family Celebration. Each night a different branch of the family is responsible for a gift for all the kids; usually a gift that involved an activity. A variety of sleds that meant a trip into a mountain park for sledding the next day. Large brass cookie cutters and spatulas, accompanied by sugar cookie baking. Blank wood photo boxes and paints. You get the idea…

We didn’t know it then, but it was Daddy’s last Christmas with us. He was diagnosed with lung cancer a few weeks after we got home and he slipped away to his eternal house party just 5 months later. I think he’s quite pleased to know we continued this as an every-other-year tradition, celebrating this Reinukah and the last in a lake-front lodge home in Branson.

Each arm of the family packs up a ridiculous amount of stuff and packs it into the house; Christmas ornaments, holiday decorations, all of our gifts and more.DSCN8444 The first night in, we buy a tree and deck the halls. For Tracy, she has to have her specific kitchen accoutrement; Nespresso milk frother, some super-fancy griddle, her blender and mixer than may have cost more than my car. Paige and Dan stock the bar and bring the fun in whatever form it may take each year – this year we all got stuffed “snow balls” and an indoor snowball fight ensued. Between mom and my sisters, we have the Spode Christmas dishes and champagne flutes, s’mores supplies for the last night bonfire. Paige brings amazing restaurant-quality cuts of beef for Christmas dinner… I bring a little of it all, but never in as great a supply. Most years I am just lucky to make it before dinner on the first night is over.

It is all chaos and insanity. Our husbands surely don’t understand it all, but they help us pack it all in and load it all out none the less. They are good sports. The cousins get a week to be together a rediscover their family again. My sisters and I cook, spar a bit and laugh a lot. I am confident that it is all a bit too much noise and mess and drink rings on the furniture for mom, but she “gifts” us the house anyway because she knows how much it means to all of us. Mom has always understood what real gift giving is about – understanding what will make someone else happy and putting that first – though I sometimes wonder if she really knows what a tremendous gift this week is.

It is the last day here in BDSCN8420ranson. In the morning, the Colorado contingent will head out first, the rest of us falling in behind. Surely me and my family rushing to get it all packed out before the 10am deadline. In a frenzied sort of fracas, Paige, Tracy and Mom are packing up: pulling down the tree, de-decking the halls, restocking the shelves with the boring brown plates and putting away the Spode, ready for the journey home. Larry has hauled the tree out into the woods; Dan is creatively utilizing the over-flow of groceries we still have in the kitchen. No one will go hungry today. Patrick is in the bedroom with Wil, watching one of ‘his stories’, avoiding the insanity. The girls are ensconced in their bedroom downstairs, texting, posting to Facebook, talking about movies, musicals and boy bands, most likely. And Jake is still in bed.

I am out on the deck, taking a moment to take it all in. I can hear the spring at the end of the cove, the birds in the trees, and the tail-end of the chaos behind me in the house. And somewhere off in the distance, I can hear my dad, telling a tall tale, raising a glass of red wine, and laughing deep in his soul. We are the daughters of the social chairman, he taught us well, and I believe he’d be proud.

It is a week together in a house that isn’t ours, but we manage to make it home. It is a week of the name game, loud laughter, far too much festive food, duct tape, Viking helmets, late mornings in jammies and late nights telling tales. It is a time for Jake and Dan to do a puzzle together, for Nicole to style Jake’s hair and me to style hers, for Zack to marvel in the distinctiveness of Wil and his unique window to the world. This year it was also about Uncle Festivus, Catching Fire, vomit – real and in jelly bean form – and Lysol. It is a thread that I think our grandfather started with his brothers at the Esser Family Christmas parties in Booneville. Maybe it started before then; I’m not sure. But I am so thankful we continue to weave this thread into our children’s lives. I pray they weave it into theirs someday. It is more than a week with too many trappings and far too much food, but usually not enough butter.


It is Reinukah.



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