Thanksgiving this year had special meaning for us because two out of our three kids were coming home from college. And since we are planning to put our house on the market shortly after the first of the year and…fingers crossed…sell it, this might be the last time we share Thanksgiving together in the house that they grew up in.

Our son, Ethan who is 22, has been living away from home for more than two years now. Once he made it clear to us that he had moved out for good, his souvenirs got packed up and his sister relocated into his room. So now, when he comes home, he really isn’t coming home at all. He is just coming back to a house in which he knows the cupboard where the Triscuits are stashed.

There have been a lot of changes for him in the last year.  Because he didn’t like the person he was when he was in high school and at the JC, Ethan reinvented himself. He has worked hard to present himself differently both in appearance and demeanor. No more t-shirts and baggy pants. Now he only wears button down shirts, often with a tie, and slim black jeans. And he is proud that he can hold his own in conversation with anyone from a classmate to a Ph.D. candidate.

So for him, coming back to Petaluma is like taking a step backwards. And after two days, he was itching to get back to his new and improved life in San Francisco.

However, for our 18-year-old daughter Valerie, who has only been away at college for three months, coming back for Thanksgiving was still like coming home for her. Although she has gotten over her homesickness, she still has not totally bonded with the college experience. Because she has not changed dramatically in appearance or attitude, having her here felt like she had never left.

As she said at the airport, “college hasn’t started being fun yet,” so she had a much harder time saying goodbye to us and returning to school.

For our youngest daughter, Jennifer, having her older siblings back in the house was a mixed blessing. Now that she is in high school, the four year age difference between her and her older sister, and eight years between her and her older brother, doesn’t seem so big. They like many of the same websites and all take enjoyment in educating mom and dad in the short attention span trends that sweep through the Internet. However, Jennifer had gotten very used to not having to share the bathroom or the TV.

As the kids get older, their experiences may take them farther afield, so they may not come back to Petaluma for Thanksgiving.  For Steve and me, having them all home this year, in this house, was a moment in time to be thankful for.