This past weekend, I made the trip home to spend some time with my relatives on my dad's side of the family. Saturday evening as the sun began to go down I pulled into the stone driveway of my aunt's house. As I pulled in, my eyes darted to the other cars to see who all made it and who was missing. As I made notes in my head I parked and got out of my car. Much to my surprise, (I haven't seen many of these family members since December and the younger ones are usually shy at first...) my cousin Rudi came running out to the car. "Caroline, Caroline!" she exclaimed as she jumped into my arms. When it comes to family… often times, it is a train wreck of a trip. So I never really know what to expect and I'm used to things not going well. Coming home is not always a pleasant experience and as I'm growing up, I'm beginning to understand that the word 'home' is not necessarily a house, or a town. To me, 'home' means the ability to feel completely comfortable breaking my walls down and being vulnerable. Home means the place that I can come to when I am broken to build me up and the place I can share my darkest secrets without being judged. It's the place I can go to and receive support no matter what.
Amidst the drama and hardships of my life, my immediate family has not always provided me with a proper portrayal of home. However, my extended family on my dad's side has been a constant support system for me. My relatives are a very dysfunctional group of people that come together and make it work. They're crazy and have tons of problems just like all families do. In my family, nobody stays married and messing things up is what we do best. Spending time with them this past Saturday helped me remember why they are so great. When we get together, nothing else really matters. We cherish the moments together; take plenty of pictures to remember; we laugh hysterically at the strangest things; and for a couple of hours the youngest ones return us to the innocence of youth.It's always a good time visiting the place that I grew up because now that I am older and on my own. I have the ability to leave. I can stop by, spend some time with people I wanted to see, and then be on my merry way. It helps me realize how far I have come and I can appreciate the people that have pushed me to grow even more. After the weekend at home, I was able to make a surprise visit to see my best friend. Though I was able to visit for less than 12 hours and I woke up at 4:45a.m. so that I could be at work on time the next morning; those few hours were worth it. Because he's family. That's the place I feel at home. When I am able to be with friends and their families that allow me to snort when I laugh; that allow me to just show up with not much of a heads up; the people that accept me for me and ask me to be a part of their own family activities. The bonds of friendship that have developed this past year are what has propelled me into the becoming the young lady that I am today. I think of them as family because there is nothing that hinders our love for each other.
The people captured in these still frames are my family. They are my home. They are who I can come home to at any time of day. They are the ones who know me better than I know myself and they are the first people I call when I have news to share; good or bad. These are the people that I owe my life; my strength; and my joy to. Through our drunkest nights and our biggest mistakes; these are the people that have never give up on me and that have never stopped loving me. The important thing to remember is that life doesn't always work out the way it's 'supposed' to; but that's okay. Because God presents opportunities for us that are more amazing than anything we could have dreamed of. I didn't expect to create this new family and sense of home for myself. That was something that God did for me and I have never been happier.