See You Later, Florida! - My Family Travels

See you later Florida! I’m outta here! Boarding my flight from Orlando was the most highly anticipated moment of my life. I was leaving home to meet family I had never seen before! Not only was I going to meet family, but I was also visiting sunny California!

Hollywood! The movie stars! Being an East Coast girl my whole life how would I adjust to the West Coast style for 2 whole weeks? I would soon find that it would not be hard at all. Finally arriving from the near 8-hour plane ride I was exhausted. As soon as I set foot on land I felt an abundance of energy I had never experienced before! What a rush! Next, questions came flying through my head.

I began getting nervous. I knew I was meeting my aunt but what was she like? Would she teach me about some of my family’s history? Would she even like me? Then I saw her. Aunt Joanie, just as glamorous as the one picture I had of her! She was extremely short though, which made me giggle, but right away she gave me a big smile and a warm hug.

‘Welcome to California!’ she announced. My nerves suddenly left me and instantly I became excited again.I soon learned that my Aunt Joanie is a singer and, boy, is she a talented one! That evening she took me to this striking seafood restaurant called Khoury’s and she was actually the entertainment! There was a whole stage setup and all of her closest friends surrounded her. During dinner, to my surprise, I got to meet a cousin as well, Deanne.

When my mother heard that I got to meet her she was instantly jealous, (but in a good way). It had been nearly 30 years since my mom had seen her! Deanne told me childhood stories of her and my mother. It was a great feeling to learn more about the ones who are closest to me.

I also learned all about Deanne’s family, and I later got to meet them. I met Cody, her son, who is autistic. Meeting Cody helped me understand how to appreciate my life and what I was given. But I was so surprised when Deanne said she wasn’t sad for herself or her son.

Her love for Cody is stronger than any bond I had ever seen from a mother and a child. They communicate and ultimately connect in ways that standard families would never be able to recognize, and for that she was grateful. Deanne really opened my eyes that day, and for that I am grateful.

I also met Deanne’s father, my Uncle Glen. He is really interested in space and he asked me many questions about the Kennedy Space Center back in Orlando. I felt so accepted and thankful to have so many people interested in my life. I believe they felt the same affection and cherished it in return.

Although these memories are great, I must say my favorite part of the trip was meeting my other cousin, Leland. He showed me home videos and I got to see what my mom looked like as a little girl. I almost felt as if I was traveling back in time. I laughed at the movie of her and Deanne eating ice cream as children.

Leland then gave me the true tourist trip of California! I went to many beaches including Seal, Venice, Huntington and Laguna! I shopped, ate, and met plenty of interesting people. Venice beach was my favorite because we took a bike ride all the way to the boardwalk! I took pictures of some really funny people and great sites.

Laguna was fun too because that is a trendy and popular beach and the California sun felt great. Leland then took me to Hollywood! We took a tour bus and visited all of the celebrity homes. I even got to see the house from the show Fresh Prince of Bel-Aire! I visited the Kodak theatre too and felt like a celebrity myself, walking in the footsteps of beautiful people.

Overall my trip was completely unforgettable! It definitely changed me for the better; I gained a whole new family, who all gave me a memory to treasure. I gained a sense of independence and confidence as well, for braving a new coast of my country all by myself! I am extremely grateful for my trip to California and I appreciate knowing my family better than ever!

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