there's no place like...
every time i come home my mom asks me if it feels weird to be back. the strange truth is that the second i step foot into my room--it feels like nothing has changed. an entire year has gone by and home still feels every bit like home. sometimes when i wake up, i can't remember if moving to hollywood was all a dream. i know i'm meant to be here and despite the being so far away part--i really do love it, but that doesn't make north carolina any less of a part of me.
i had originally planned on a quick weekend trip back to the east coast for the sole purpose of being there for my best friend's birthday. the second i lost the restraints of having a job and a mandatory place to be--i knew that i wanted to extend my visit. almost two weeks might seem like one hell of a "visit", but that doesn't mean it didn't fly by.
luckily i still had time to pack in all of my favorites.
favorite lifelong friends.
favorite public form of embarrassment/hilarity.
favorite extra seasoned french fries.
favorite side dish.
after a few days at home--i headed even further down south for some quality time and a 24th birthday weekend with the best friend.
you'd think that two people who lived together and saw each other morning, afternoon, and night would probably stop appreciating the little things after a while. sara and i, on the other hand, never took our friendship for granted. two years into living together, i can still remember my breath catching in my throat with excitement when i would hear her car pull into the driveway after a long weekend home. i remember how blissfully happy it made me to hear her footsteps creak towards my room at dinnertime after she had just woken up from a nap. i remember holding in my laughter as she tossed ten yoplait yogurt cups into our grocery cart--simply because she can't walk away from a ten-for-ten deal.
i reminded myself every day to appreciate her because i knew we wouldn't always be living ten steps down the hall from each other. now--more than ever--these tiny moments with her count. it wasn't the moment i saw her feet at the bottom of escalator when she picked me up from the airport. it wasn't the moment we hugged goodbye and i wanted to hold on for ten minutes longer. it was the moment we were sitting there on the couch--passing back and forth a box of wheat thins and watching the notebook--that i realized how incredibly special the world felt in that one simple second.
as i pulled out of sara's driveway and wiped my eyes--i decided to take a different way back home. normally the drive from raleigh to little river is a straight shot on two highways. recently, sara told me about a quicker route that involves a handful of different back roads, by-passes, and mini-highways. although this involved following some very strange twists and turns from my GPS--there's something about this drive that makes me feel like i'm in another era.
at one point while watching the notebook, sara turned to me and repeated allie's last line,
"sensational! i wish people used that word more often."
these are the kinds of places where i imagine people use that word everyday, know the milkman by his first name, and smile at strangers.
back in raleigh...
you know when you see someone at a funeral and they say,
"great to see you...even under these unfortunate circumstances..."
when i bought this ticket to bring me home--the sole purpose was to be with my best friend for her birthday.
little did i know that there would be a miracle involved.
a few weeks ago, we found out that one of our sixteen and a half year old persian cats had a tumor in his lung.
i say cat.
but what i mean is--little brother.
i felt so blessed to coincidentally be coming home, but i had no idea how important my presence would actually be. not only did i get to spend time with mango, but i was able to help my parents and be there for them at the same time.
it may have been unfortunate circumstances--but we were still together.
pets are not pets in my family. they never have been.
they eat at the dinner table with us and are lavished in hourly compliments such as,
"if you were any cuter, i'd have to arrest you!"
needless to say--they're family.
seeing my mom pour every ounce of love she had into taking care of mango reminded me how lucky i am to be a part of this family. sometimes i think that my parents are so full of love that if i squeeze them too hard--some will come out of their ears. how lucky we are--my sister and i, and every furry four legged animal that has ever graced us with their presence--to have always been so taken care of and protected. our cats may not be able to speak english, but i know that they have the exact same sense of appreciation for my parents that my sister and i do.
mango was one of a kind.
although it was extremely painful to know that he would be leaving this world--i felt such a sense of peace knowing that he would be out of pain. if a human is laying in a hospital bed, they can hold your hand and reassure you. they can tell you that they're ready to go, to leave this world and venture on into the next place.
other than roast chicken--mango loved nothing more than curling up in the fruit bowl on our kitchen table.
in his last few years, he had gotten so big for the bowl that he found plenty of other places to nap and spend the day. that porcelain dish may have filled up with avocados and heirloom tomatoes--but we all knew that it belonged to mango.
on his last full day, mango used every bit of strength he had to hop onto the table and squeeze himself into that fruit bowl one last time.
after having just peed on my carpet--his other favorite past time--we realized that he was re-living all of his cherished moments one last time.
that was his way of saying,
i'm ready to go.
to mango (who i know is still all around me):
thank you for being my family.