The night before my flight to New Mexico (to see Vince) I decided to spend in Tracy to rest and repack my bags. My mom took advantage of the small window of time and scheduled a family party to welcome me and say goodbye in one swoop. After leaving Alicia and Brian's place, I headed straight to Tracy. Straight for the safety of my parents' arms and the home that always offered me comfort, no matter what my state was. Driving to Tracy, after the birth of Alannah, was a tearful time, if you remember from my last blog, so I was looking forward to seeing them.
I knew that the night was a celebration with the rest of the family I hadn't seen during my trip, so I was preparing myself for it. I was armed with actual PRINTED PICTURES of Alannah, Harmony, Alicia and Brian. The hot topic of conversation would absolutely be Alannah, whom they would all make plans to see after I left.
When I pulled up, I saw my mom waving at me from the kitchen window, like I was coming home from school. I teared up just seeing her. How much I "want my mom" even at 48 years old!. A cool, level-headed, glowing woman of faith, she epitomizes everything I wanted to be when I grew up. As I pulled up, I realize that my parents' home is a base that we all come home to. It made me cry more.
As she welcomed me into their house, my dad joined her. We all hugged, and regrouped. Arriving meant the obligatory questions about the drive, my luggage (my dad and Uncle Walt offered to unload it, then teased me because it was so heavy). I said hello to all who were there (My Aunt Molly and David; Aunt Emmy and Walt) brought out pictures and we began to look at them, cooing about how BIG she was...and how beautiful. Soon my sister, Colleen arrived, with Tom and all the kids. We all busily chatted and hugged, looked at pictures together as I told a quick version of the birth story.
I could smell my mom's beans. I realized I hadn't eaten since breakfast. . The warmth of the Ryan house during a party is amazing: a beehive with people. We soon prayed and sat down to dinner. August 9, in the USA means a dinner outside at the picnic tables on the lawn.
Dinner was an assortment of my favorites: tamale casserole, beans, salad with home-grown organic vegetables. Roasted chicken... red wine. The slow roasted evening is even more delicious. Dinner conversation is fast and furious, and full of laughter. At one point, my aunts said the neighbors were all saying "Janet's home!" because they forgot how loud my laugh was.
The kids popped in and out for hugs and updates on what they were doing. "Have I told you how much I love you?" I asked Connor, my nephew. He stared straight ahead and said "About a million times..." I squeezed him and said "Good!!! Now you won't forget!!" He squiggled to get away. I reminded myself of my own aunt and uncles growing up.
The party was really about connecting. The last time I had seen everyone here was last year for the 50th Wedding Anniversary party of my parents. For that celebration, we had fun, good food, dancing and talking, but no real or private place to reconnect with everyone's life. During this time, we talked into the late hours about life, all of our aunts and cousins, the latest happenings with the kids. We sat in the night, lit by the patio umprellas with built-in fairy lights. The girls climbed trees and the kids played hide-and seek. While I darted inside to print out my online boarding pass, I checked my email and found out that my latest blog entry on salon.com was chosen as an editor's pick for that "issue" of the online magazine. I was elated!!
We end the night by toasting my coming home, the miracle of Alannah's new life and a safe journey back...with champagne.
During the time of saying goodbye to everyone, my nephew, Garrett, walked with me to my room to put my camera away.
"Aunt Janet," he said, in his normal inquisitive manner (he once called me to warn me to stay away from baboons). "When you lived here, you were my aunt that was so much fun and always wanting to have fun with us. When you come back, it makes me miss you more." It was like a javelin through my heart. Spoken so tenderly from one of my favorite nephews (they're all my favorite), I teared up yet again.
I hugged him and said "If I don't go back what will Uncle Mario do??"
"Yeah," Garrett said, resigned to my leaving. "He'll be prett-y lonely without you. After all, it was BOTH of you that wanted to go to Africa." I smiled.
From the mouths of babes.