2017-12-21 / Life in Leelanau

Home for the Holidays

County natives travel from afar to spend Christmas in Leelanau County
By Amy Hubbell
Of The Enterprise staff


BRITTANY DARGA, her husband P.J. and daughter, Abigail, will make it home for the holidays this weekend traveling from Pittsburgh. Mother and daughter are pictured here in front of the PPG Center in Pittsburgh. BRITTANY DARGA, her husband P.J. and daughter, Abigail, will make it home for the holidays this weekend traveling from Pittsburgh. Mother and daughter are pictured here in front of the PPG Center in Pittsburgh. Oh, there’s no place like home for the holidays

‘Cause no matter how far away your roam

When you pine for the sunshine of a friendly gaze

For the holidays you can’t beat home sweet home!

Song by Robert Allen and Al Stillman.

Home is where the heart is — but that doesn’t always mean your domicile.

According to AAA, next weekend a record 107.3 million Americans will hit the roads, rails and skies to be with loved ones this Christmas holiday.

Among them are Brittany and P.J. Darga of Pittsburgh, who will be making a nine-or-more-hour drive to see their parents Gary and Sharon Husted and Thom and Becky Darga — both of Bingham Township.

“We plan on heading out at 6 Friday morning. But that will depend upon whether P.J. gets called into work,” Darga said.

Brittany and her husband were high school sweethearts. Both Suttons Bay graduates — Brittany in 2003 and P.J. the following year — the couple married in August 2011 and lived in the Milwaukee area where he attended medical school.

“We’ve made it home each year except for 2015, when Abigail was born,” she said.

Six months ago, the Dargas moved from Milwaukee to Pittsburgh where P.J. is completing a residency in cardio-thoracic anesthesiology with the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

Milwaukee is not very far as the crow flies, but it was still an eight-hour trip — regardless of what loop they took — north via the Upper Peninsula or south through Chicago.

They estimate conservatively that the trip home for Christmas this year will take nine hours.

“It will probably be more like 10 or 11 hours … traveling with a 2-year-old and our dog, Magglio,” Darga said. “We’re not flying because we have the dog.”

Still, they plan to make the trip in one day.

However, before they make it home, Brittany’s parents will have already left for Fayetteville, N.C. to spend Christmas with their son, Chauncey, his wife, Tammy and 18-month-old twin daughters Ella and Grace.

Chauncey is an Army captain serving in the JAG (Judge Advocate General) Corps.

Last year the Husteds traveled to Germany where their son was stationed to be there for the twins’ first Christmas.

“You have to be flexible when you have children all over the world,” Husted said.

Christmas with her daughter, son-in-law, and granddaughter, Abigail will be on Dec. 30, once they return from North Carolina.

“I don’t care that we can’t all be together,” she said. “As long as I can be with them at some point, I’m happy.”

This weekend Thor and Christine Mikesell of Suttons Bay will have their entire family together at Christmas for the first time in two years.

“They all get along and we love to see that,” Mikesell said.

The couple has five sons and their three oldest attend college out-of-state.

Blake, 24, attends Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah; Logan, 21 and Baylor, 19 attend BYU-Idaho in Rexburg, Idaho.

All three graduated from Suttons Bay.

The Mikesells’ youngest children, 15-year-old Lucas and fifth grader, Isaac, attend Suttons Bay School where Thor Mikesell serves as president of the Suttons Bay Board of Education. Christine Mikesell works in the athletic director’s office at the school.

“They don’t come home during the school year, just Christmas and part of the summer,” Mikesell said.

But for the past two years, Logan has been gone on a mission trip to Argentina.

He will be home for Christmas for the first time in two years.

“It will be nice to have everyone together,” Mikesell said.

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