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A Home for the Holidays and Beyond



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By Sadie Fowler
Photography by Ben Phillips

Children bring Christmas to life, with their imaginative and curious spirits and love for all the season brings. For Cindi DeBusk, grandson Levi Asbury has added even more special meaning to a season she already loved.  

“Kids give the holidays more meaning,” she said. “They help us appreciate what it’s all about … what can be more exciting than to look at things through the eyes of a child.”

Two-and-a-half-year-old Levi shares Cindi’s fondness for the holidays. He loves Christmas — and what kid wouldn’t at the DeBusk mansion, a 38,000 square foot winter wonderland that’s as grand as it is beautiful on Cunningham Road in Knoxville.

Cindi and Pete DeBusk, home owners, stay busy in their day-to-day business ventures (Pete is the owner and chairman of DeRoyal Industries and Cindi is a licensed general, electrical and HVAC contractor who has also branched out into interior design). As motivated and highly driven as they are, Levi has delightfully grounded them in many ways. 

This year, Christmas is all about Levi, with every piece and part of the DeBusk home being his perfect playground. It’s music to his ears — anything and everything a little boy could imagine. 
Levi is the son of Cindi’s daughter and son-in-law, Marcinda and Adam Asbury. He’s also Cindi’s pride and joy, and has brought much joy into the home during the time he spends with Cindi. 

Even though he’s a curious little boy and different in so many ways than Cindi’s daughters, now grown, he’s exceptionally well-behaved. Cindi finds it amazing that he can, at such a young age, study things like the train in the foyer — without touching it, much less dropping it. Levi carefully admires and appreciates things many boys might not, like the Christmas Village in one of the home’s studies and the nutcrackers that stand at nearly six feet tall overseeing the home’s rotunda. 

“He stands on the sofa behind the village,” Cindi said. “Then he comes around the corner and talks to Santa. Then he carefully opens and closes the little gate. He notices small details, like the bottles in the store window.”

Cindi finds his appreciation for the details in the home to be amazing. 
“He’s a curious little boy and loves all the little boy things, like being outside,” Cindi said, describing her little side kick. “He is very curious. He’s all questions. But he is a very respectful and gentle boy. 

“When you take him to a restaurant he knows how to sit there properly and eat. He has the best mom and dad ever. They are teaching him manners, and lots of things. His mom will tell him, ‘In this world no one is going to give you things. We don’t get things for free.’”

Before Levi, it had been quite a while since Cindi had experienced the regular hustle and bustle of having children in the home during the holidays. Though she loves to entertain large crowds during Christmas, and any time of the year, her girls are grown now. 

As she reminisces back to the days when her own girls were young, she remarks how different times are now. 

“It was very different back then,” she said. “I was a very busy, working, single mom.” 
As busy as Cindi remains, staying organized is her key to success. She moves from work project, to spending time with Levi, to hosting lavish parties … all seemingly with ease. 

“I have to stay very, very organized,” she said. “That was something I had to learn. I follow my ‘to do’ lists carefully. They are so important … How do I wind down from it all? That’s a good question. It might sound silly but I take a nice bath every night!”

Cindi’s a pro at offering a nurturing environment for Levi to build a lifetime of memories. She may be busy one morning preparing for a fancy dinner party, but Levi keeps her company as he sits near the kitchen sink looking at the gingerbread houses in the kitchen and the skaters on the pond in front of one of the Christmas Village houses. 

Levi brings the Christmas spirit alive, with some of his other favorite things being Rudolph and all the many trees in the home (there are 17 this year). 

“He pinches Rudolph’s antlers to make his nose light up and the song ‘Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer’ plays. He dances to the song,” Cindi laughed. “As soon as he walks in the door he says, ‘Go see Christmas tree. Go see Christmas tree!’ He spends the night once a week, and as soon as he wakes up he says, ‘Go see Christmas tree. Go see Christmas tree!’”
Levi used to call Cindi “GiGi,” but now the adoring nickname has transgressed into “CiCi,” Cindi explained. 

At the end of a busy play date, Levi often asks if he can go “night night” in Santa’s sleigh, which sits in the home’s foyer next to Rudolph.

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