You can go home again
How do I distill a two week vacation with multiple reunions into one simple post? This is the question I have been asking myself since I arrived, with my family, in Los Angeles on July 8th. At first, the task seemed simple enough: go back home for a couple of weeks, visit some cousins and then attend a mini-reunion with high school and grade school friends that I hadn’t seen in more than 25 years. Seemed easy but like most of you, the thought of spending time with people who could hardly say they ‘knew me when…’ was giving me stomach aches.
I can sum up the trip in a few words: paramnesia with warm fuzzies. Everything was changed but so incredibly familiar. It only took an hour behind the wheel to remember how to get around the area. Having lived in Los Angeles for 30 years, you would think this no big deal however, when my husband whose sense of direction rivals Mr. Magoo’s knew where he was going, I knew I was in the presence of a miracle. I felt embraced and imbued with the coolness of my hometown. The smiling faces and friendly banter of the residents wherever we would go made me happy then immediately sad since I live in Miami where ‘thank you’ and ‘excuse me’ are inferred in the ‘fuck you’.
This bipolar feeling was only magnified when I began visiting people. My family visits began apprehensively and ended with a sadness of letting them go yet again. My cousin’s children were yet another layer of emotions. My kids and theirs got along very well and the guilt that I had deprived them of these relationships was almost palpable. I expected replays of old conversations or attitudes from my family that never manifested. We had all changed and the evolution to where we were now had been kind to all of us. We all got along and the miles of separation seemed a sad consequence for not relating before.
One of the bright spots of this trip was spending some time with the children of my cousins. I was pleasantly surprised that I could relate to them and they seemed to enjoy my company as well. One of them actually asked me, ‘Are you sure we’re related’? I would like to think that that question was asked because of how cool I am and not because of possible fear of genetic commonalities. If they are reading this, William, Anthony, Aaron and Amanda, you guys rock and I am proud to be related to you.
I am saving the best for last since I am still processing my feelings from that evening. On July 11th, through the tremendous effort of Laurie (grade school and high school friend), we had a small reunion party. The idea was borne of all the wonderful connections we had made on Facebook. Call it whatever you like, the social networking of Facebook has reconnected so many people that I see it as a therapeutic phenomena. So we put it out there. Let’s get St. Catherine Laboure and Bishop Montgomery High School graduates together. And they came.
We intended it to be intimate, homey and healing and that is exactly what it was. We had people traveling from Las Vegas, St. Clarita and Marin County to spend some time in Long Beach with some old grade school friends. The faces were familiar and the stories were fantastic. What we realized was that most of us had spent 8 formative years together. In that time, we had developed a family through shared experiences and traumas. We all recalled John M. getting his wrist broken at the seminary. We recalled that Sister Maria Ghoretti was probably a pedophile. We mused about the idea that Sister Gabriel was really Father O’Byrne or visa versa. We were saddened by the passing of classmates and elated by the success of others.
Our growth was not only in age and wisdom but in courage, self assuredness and inner beauty. I was sad we lived so far apart. So here is my shout-outs to my St. Catherine’s friends that made my night so memorable and the pain of traveling 2 weeks with my kids very bearable: Class of 79’ you are wonderful! Laurie, Terri, Andy, Marcella, Loretta, Brian, Lisa, Anna, Brian, John thank you again.
So what was this all about? What incredible insight did I learn from this trip? How can you distill 13 days into one a few words? Simple: Lesson 1: Los Angeles has some of the best food in the world. If you don’t believe me, go to Marie Calendars or Jack-in-the-Box. Lesson 2: People change and so do you. Lesson 3: Jack-in-the-Box serves breakfast all day. That might not seem to be a big deal to you but we thought it was amazing. Lesson 4: Customer service, a great attitude and good conversation can change everything. This is something that Miami must learn…soon. Lesson 5: You can go home again. Sure they’ve sold your house and everybody looks a little wrinklier but it’s still home and it always comes with a side of sourdough.