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Last weekend I went home. Home for me is with my husband in Florida but it's also Southern California, "the O.C."
The occasion was my niece Jennifer's wedding. She's the first one in our family to graduate college. She's beautiful, inside and out, and smart - a high school guidance counselor for at-risk teens. Her new husband, Marc, is a rookie firefighter.
The outdoor wedding took place in San Juan Capistrano. It had a Baja, Mexico theme. My mom and dad live in Baja.
Aunt Gladys flew in from Oakland, Calif. She's no longer round, with bat-wing arms. At 87, she's tiny and thin and has trouble remembering all the cousins' names, but she's still Aunt Gladys. She still wears her pearls and clip-on earrings and carries a big purse.
All the cousins except Eric who's in the Navy in North Carolina were there to see their cousin Jen get married, including my two girls.
I miss my girls; they live so far away, one in Georgia and the other in North Carolina.
The last time I came home it was for my nephew Shane's wedding almost three years ago. At Jen's wedding, Shane and his wife, Molly, brought their little one, Dylan, who is very well behaved and likes to play with cell phones.
Shane and Molly's wedding was more formal than Jen's - Marc and the groomsmen wore flip flops with their black suits. At Shane's wedding my dad wore a black suit, and with his perfectly coifed white hair, the buzz around the hotel was that he looked like Mafia, so we called him the Godfather.
At Jen's wedding, Dad wore a traditional Mexican wedding shirt but he still looked like a Mafia don.
As Marc's Uncle Dan ("Uncle Preacher") performed the ceremony, he spoke about how God ordained marriage and that "the two shall become one." He told Marc that he was to love Jen as Christ loved the church, sacrificially and faithfully.
At one point everyone in Marc's family stood and vowed to welcome Jen into their family and then we, Jen's family, did the same for Marc.
My sister Peggy, Jen's mom, wore a tangerine-colored dress and looked gorgeous. She's my favorite only sister and I hate that we live so far apart. We comfort ourselves with the promise of eternity, that maybe heaven will have sunny beaches just like the O.C. and we can hang out with Jesus together, listening to the surf and catching some rays.
Jen's wedding, as with all weddings, was not without tears. Holding my mom and holding my dad and holding my Aunt Gladys and my favorite only sister and my two brothers made me want to never let go. I live so far away and my everyday life is elsewhere, but they are my home and my kin, my blood.
There's something not quite right about my youngest brother. He's a drug addict, in and out of jail and rehab. He lives with a woman who beats him.
We think he was high at the wedding. Families are messy like that.
I cried when I saw my mom holding him. He's 49 years old, but he's still her baby. He's so very, very lost.
I also cried when I saw my cousin Jan. We hadn't seen each other since we were kids. My dad's sister's daughter, she owns a bakery, just like our grandmother did. She made the wedding cake and brought boxes of cookies, the same cookies as our grandmother once made. We ate childhood memories together and reminisced.
I cried when I thought about how Jen's wedding was most likely the last California wedding for our family and that the next time I go home might not be for a joyous occasion, but a sorrowful one. That's just part of this fallen world, joy and sorrow.
Some day there's going to be a huge wedding at the end of time, the Bible says, when those who belong to Jesus go home to be with him. At that wedding, no one will be drunk or stoned.
No one will feel like an outcast or grieve because they'll be leaving in a day or two to go someplace far away. No one will throw cake. Joy will replace sorrow. Forever and ever and ever.
I love weddings. I want to go home!