Gluck Auf, 2018!

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Every year just gets better.   More games to play, more movies to watch, more places to explore, more things to do.

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This is the Writer’s Workshop set up on Christmas, above the Swedish fireplace in the living room, under the watchful eyes of Darth Vader.

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Everyone had a hay day playing Hay Day.  “I need to buy food for my cows!”

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Or feed their chickens, tend their crops.  Whatever game it is they’re playing they are certainly learning a lot about farming!  And on New Year’s Eve in Austria there is nothing more fitting than a game of pigs.

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The New Year isn’t just about pigs.  It’s also about going downtown, waltzing on the Graben, and hoisting the littlest ones up on your shoulders so they can see over the crowd while you wait in line for Punsch.

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It’s about waiting for the sun to go down, and being a tourist just like all the other tourists who can’t resist trying to capture the moment in photos.

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It’s about buying erdafpfelpuffers and roasted chestnuts.

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Vienna at this time of year is so pretty.

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As the cousins grow up countries apart, they are finding new ways to see the world together.  Just like I remember with my own cousins.  After all these years even though our lives have diverged, there is security that still comes from knowing my childhood memories exist somewhere.  When life gets more complicated and the path less charted, I’m grounded by remembering that my cousins share the memories of lighting fireworks and playing in the barn.

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These cousins are going to remember wearing pig hats on their heads.

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And throwing molten lead into pans of water.

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Hopefully they will also remember staying up until midnight with virgin margaritas and dancing for joy in the living room.

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And the patience of their Oma playing “Sorry” with them over and over again…

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Pretty soon we will have even more cousins to play with!

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I’m not sure how many Dutch-American cousins will be able to share memories of wearing pigs hats in Vienna, or throwing melted lead into bowls of water to “predict the future.”

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Or shoveling snow and making snowmen in the Alps,

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Or visiting the Salt Mines in Salzburg.

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But we do know that it keeps getting better, and that whatever we’re doing and wherever we are, these memories are something these cousins will share, and we hope will reassure them one day.  And for the adults who emerge from the vacation more exhausted then when we started, this is why the effort to do all of this matters!  To make plans six months ahead, wait for hours at the airport (sometimes twice), to pack suitcases, rent cars, cook dinners for a dozen, resolve fights over games, and arguments about who sleeps where, to clean up a kitchen coated in frosting, and explain (again) why life isn’t “fair.”  The point is learning that family will always be there to buy food for each other’s cows.

Yes, it matters.  And it’s totally worth it.

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