They say home is where the heart is. I say it's where the good food, jokes and news-you-won't-find-anywhere-else-is.
I packed up the family and headed to the "Central City" this week to visit my parents and celebrate my Dad's 77th birthday. A couple of my sisters and their families were there too.
It never ceases to amaze me how I drift through a range of emotions spending a weekend with extended family.
From hearing stories of farmer woes, updates on aging family members struggling to hold on to some semblance of normalcy, and our former hometown seemingly in the crime news every other week, it's a reminder of all that is wrong in the world.
And then...my sister shows up. With wonderful news. News that fills the entire weekend with an inexplicable joy.
It's not news of a baby.
Not news of a marriage.
Not even news of a free tropical vacation where she can invite her 10 closest friends and relatives.
Instead, it's news of...
Her husband is the new mayor of their town.
That brings to mind only one word:
Because that makes my sister First Lady.
Okay, so he only ran because some people begged him to and got all the signatures for him. And he ran uncontested.
Nonetheless. He's the mayor. And that's just cool.
I was having so much fun with her new title as First Lady all weekend that eventually even her own children were asking, "Mom, what did you just text the Mayor?"
Really wish the Mayor could have joined the family festivities. But hey, I understand.
He's a busy guy. He's got a town to run, after all.
And I'm a mere peon.
Maybe I'll get him to name a day after me. Like on American Idol. I'll get a key to the city and everything.
Truthfully, since this fabulous news came, my real dream is see my sister and her Mayor hubby as grand marshalls of a parade.
You know. In a convertible. Sitting on the backseat in her sequined gown, 2-inch thick makeup and fake nails waving the elbow-elbow-wrist-wrist wave we've come to expect from royalty.
Yes, I get stoked about the little things.
Like a swollen jaw.
My poor nephew recently had jaw surgery and for some reason thought it would be a good idea to come to Grandma and Grandpa's house, smell my mothers outrageously good cooking and suffer through watching the rest of us gobble it down as he sipped on blended chicken noodle soup from a can.
He just turned 21. You'd think he'd be smarter.
I think the only reason he was able to do it is because he's been eating his own mother's cooking for about a month, so he's been getting good stuff. To miss a few meals at Grandma's probably is no big deal.
I, on the other hand, have subjected myself to my own cooking for years and had someone told me I could not gorge myself with my mother's ham and scalloped potatoes or roast beef or sausage and all the fixings (plus don't forget dessert!) I would have had to find a way to rip out all my senses. How do you smell ham cooking and not sit in a corner whimpering knowing your meal will consist of yet another bottle of Boost?
It was downright inhumane.
But the mayor wasn't there to save him. And that First Lady was in line next to me filling her plate with all the goodness of I-didn't-have-to-cook-this-meal-so-it-tastes-10-times-as-good, too.
I rarely escape a trip back to my parents home without some sense of nostalgia. Even though this isn't the house I grew up in, it still has remnants of 50+ years of their life together...which eventually included me.
So as I help my mother prepare for mealtime, I get a bit misty.
I open a cupboard and get lost in its contents.
The red striped salt and pepper shakers. They were the "fancy ones" when I was a kid, because they were glass. The "everyday" ones were tall and plastic - unstable enough that they were forever dropping out of the overhead cupboard, dumping pepper just where we didn't want it.
Usually in the butter dish.
With no kids in the house, the striped ones are the new "everyday."
Even the aluminum canisters for flour and sugar remind me of many Saturdays sitting on the kitchen counter licking cookie dough out of the bowl.
Nearly every picture on the wall has a memory attached to it. Intermingled with them are the new things. Particularly the photos of grandchildren.
How did they go from splashing in Grandpa's kiddie pool to furnishing their own apartment so fast?
It's strange to see them grown. And then I think of my own aunts and uncles. I remember their look of disbelief to see I had become a young lady at one point too. I'm them now.
And I get it.
I get the "You've grown so much!" and the "How do you get your hair to do that?" and "What kind of gadget do you have there?"
They did it 20 years ago.
And I'm doing it now.
But I say, bring on the family reunion. Mom is cooking, my nephew will be healed up, and there could be an appearance by the mayor.
I don't care who ya are. That's worth coming home for.