Every few years I go home.
Although home for me for the past 25 years has been here in Florida, “home”
Home is Southern California. My DNA is a combination Valley Girl and the OC.
Last week I went home to attend my only, and therefore by default, favorite sister’s 40th wedding anniversary party.
I missed her wedding 40 years ago when I was living in Maine and very, very pregnant with my daughter Alison, who also flew out to California from her home in Maryland, along with my favorite only granddaughter, Caroline.
My parents came to California from their home in Mexico, so it was a family reunion of sorts.
My niece Jennifer and nephew Shane, my sister’s children, hosted the anniversary party, which included more Mexican food than you could ever imagine, including my favorite — tamales.
My family is not Mexican by ethnicity, but we are in our souls.
If I had to choose the best part of going home for me this time it would be meeting my great nieces: Leah, 5, Emma, 3, and Lily, 1, especially meeting Leah.
To Leah, every day is The. Best. Day. Ever!
She love, love, LOVES everything and everybody. She especially loves Jesus and asks everyone she meets if they believe in Jesus.
She has this simple and pure faith that believes Jesus answers prayers and can make everything OK. I have so much to learn from Leah. (While home, she taught me how to use Snapchat on my iPhone and take goofy selfies.)
Emma, Leah’s sister, can hear a song once and remember every word and every note. My niece once posted a video on Instagram of Emma singing, “You’ve lost that lovin’ feeling, whoa, whoa, that lovin’ feeling…” which is quite hilarious coming from the mouth of a tiny three-year-old.
While home, I got to go to Emma’s preschool chapel service and watch her get an award for sharing and hear her sing “Jesus Loves Me.”
Also while home, I got to visit with my 95-year-old Aunt Gladys. She has dementia and doesn’t remember people anymore, except sometimes on good days — and she remembered me, a memory which I will cherish.
I recorded a video of her telling stories about our family, although she got a lot of the details wrong. She said Honey Baby, her tabby cat for many years, “is now a grandmother — can you imagine that?”
Aunt Gladys has had a tragic past year or so, beginning when her home near San Francisco caught fire and a neighbor boy rescued her and saved her life. After that, we as a family knew she could no longer live alone and moved her into assisted living in Southern California near my sister.
She had a hard time adjusting at first, but now she’s content and as happy as she’s ever been. During my visit with her, Aunt Gladys kept saying, “Our family is unusual.” That’s putting it politely.
Like most families, ours has its problems and heartaches. In more than a few ways it’s been a tough few years for us as a family, including one family member who no longer wants to be a part of us and another who wants to be but needs to make amends and isn’t quite ready to yet. As a family, it’s not the same without them, and at the anniversary party I felt their absence.
Sometimes when I’m talking to my sister about family stuff I’ll jokingly say, “Families — what was God thinking?” That’s when we laugh, because if we don’t we might cry, although we’ve done our share of crying.
Family is not easy, and home is often not heaven on earth. Psalm 68:6 says God “sets the lonely in families.” He puts people who might not ever choose to be together into families, although I don’t even pretend to know why he does that.
Maybe it’s to get us ready for eternity, when we who are God’s family, made up of people we might not ever choose to be with will be together forever. One day we’ll actually all get along perfectly. No more envy or jealousy, sibling rivalry, selfishness or strife. No more worry or sorrow. No more anxiety, separation or fear.
On that day, home and family will be as it’s meant to be, and it will be “el mejor dia.”
Or as Leah would say, “The. Best. Day. Ever!”
Nancy Kennedy is the author of “Move Over, Victoria — I Know the Real Secret,” “Girl on a Swing,” and her latest book, “Lipstick Grace.” She can be reached at 352-564-2927 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.