Last night, Todd and Judy Clist spent their first New Year's Eve together in 13 years. A hotel executive who usually pours champagne rather than drinking it on the year's most festive eve, Todd Clist had the night off. It was also the first New Year's that the Clists have celebrated in Northern Virginia.

For the Clists and their two children, recently arrived from Chicago, the Washington area has become more than a glossy site of monument and marble. It has become home.

"We live by the map and Yellow Pages. We're never without them," said Judy Clist from her Vienna home, a well-stuffed Labrador nuzzling one knee and a slate-colored kitten sneaking up on the other.

"It's exciting to be in a new area. There are so many new things to see. . . But it's also easy to get the post-move blues. s

"But then you wallpaper a little here and a little there, and the house begins to be like home."

Like the thousands of others who made the one-way trek to the Washington area last year, 1981 for the Clists means more than a new year. It means new jobs, new faces, new hopes, new routes and new worries. A new life.

Traditionally, the metropolitan area has always been regarded as an extremely transient one. A recent study ranked it among the nation's top 10 percent of highly mobile areas and showed that in 1977 more than 40 percent of the area's residents had moved here during the first half of the decade.

The Clists' story, then, is not an unusual one. In its telling it is the tale of many families that must adjust to a new home in the Washington area. It is a story of misplaced Christmas ornaments, frayed maps and ten-minute trips that slip unintentionally into hour-long odysseys. It is a story of new schools with old rules and a story of what it's like to be an unknown kid after the "new kid" luster has faded. It is all these tales and more, but ultimately, it is a story of beginning again.

Having crisscrossed the country three times already during the past 12 years, it was no surprise last spring when Todd Clist arrived home and told his family about a promotion he had been offered. Clist had managed a resort for Marriott Hotels in a Chicago suburb for three years and the new position as a regional vice president meant a big hike in salary and a boost in authority.

But it also meant a move of more than 700 miles. Both Clists now say there was very little hesitation about what to do.

"There were few questions in our minds whether we should or should not move.

I had been offered other jobs during the last three years, but they were never really what I wanted. This new job was a great opportunity," Todd Clist explains.

Yet, despite the enthusiasm about the offer, both parents say their one major concern was, and still is, the continued effect moving will have on their children -- Jennifer, 8 and Todd, 10 -- who are enrolled now in Great Falls Elementary School. Todd Jr. had a hard time adjusting to the last few moves and when told of the most recent move, the Clists say their son cried.

The Clists bring to their worries divergent backgrounds. Judy was raised in one spot in Alabama and Todd Sr. was an Army brat whose childhood homes were as varied as his wife's was constant. They say they bought a home, rather than renting, in hopes that the purchase would add stability to their children's lives.

"There's no way of measuring how the kids will adjust to all the moving and what sort of long-term effect it will have on them. I worry about that . . . but then I know a lot of families that have lived in one place and their kids are very, very unhappy. I think that if we remain closely knit as a family, then they'll be okay," Judy Clist says. "In many ways I feel the moving has made my kids much more sophisticated than I was when I was a child."

Many psychiatrists and psychologists agree with Clist. They say moving is stressful, but that most problems -- whether experienced by adults' or children -- that manifest themselves during a moving period are problems that were always there but tend to be amplified during times of disorientation. t

"If there is basically a healthy and happy internal core to the family, then the family should be able to ride out the stressful period successfully," said William Thompson, chairman of public affairs for the Washington Psychiatric Society. The healthy family, Thompson also said, tends to draw closer during a move, depending more on siblings and spouses for company than peers.

The Clists seem to fit Thompson's description. Squeals of laughter emanate from the two children in the kitchen as they compete to finish a word game and both parents say the family spends most weekends together without visitors, visiting historic sites or relaxing in their creekside home. They do not socialize much now have they joined any community groups and their friends are usually people Todd has met through the company. Judy is not employed. Neither seems to miss having a close community of friends, but both admit moving is beginning to take its toll.

"Physically it gets easier every time, but emotionally and mentally it gets harder and harder. It's all the little things that seem to be more frustrating each time," 40-year-old Judy says. Procuring new driver's licenses and new credit cards or traveling unfamiliar routes, she says, are more and more often tedious than exciting. Schools can also be a problem. Todd Jr. has a learning disability and although he had been tested previously, the parents say that three or four months passed before he was properly placed.

"The first couple of months I spent so much time fixing up the house -- painting, cleaning, sawing -- that I didn't have time to think too much about being in a new spot. Then came the 'postpartum' let-down. But now it's the holiday season and my mood has picked up again," Judy says.

The Clists say they look forward to the new year, their new life, their new beginning in Northern Virginia. They don't know how long they will stay. A promotion could return them to the Chicago area. But, for now, they say, Vienna is home.

"We've got to treat it like it's our permanent residence. Otherwise we'd feel transient and lost. We would become afflicted by renter's syndrome," says Todd Clist.

"We've got to make this our home. And we will."