Jaycee Dugard's Aunt Describes Emotional Family Reunion

09/03/2009 at 02:05 PM EDT

Jaycee Dugard's Aunt Describes Emotional Family Reunion
Jaycee Lee Dugard in 1991
Nick Ut/AP
Both laughter and tears filled Jaycee Dugard's reunion with her mother and aunt after resurfacing from 18 years of captivity, according to a new interview.

Jaycee's aunt, Tina Dugard, tells the Orange County Register that the reunion was emotional. "[There was] laughing and crying and sitting quietly and holding hands," she says, adding that the family also spent time just lying on the grass and looking at the clouds.

One particularly tender moment occurred when Jaycee's mother, Terry Probyn, brushed and braided her daughter's hair – a ritual that she hadn't been able to perform since 1991. "There's a sense of comfort and optimism, a sense of happiness," says Tina. "People probably want to think that it's been this horrible, scary thing for all of us, [but] the horrible, scary thing happened 18 years ago … The darkness and despair [has lifted]."

Bright Girls

While in captivity, Jaycee taught her two daughters to read and write. "They are educated and bright," Tina says of Jaycee's children, ages 15 and 11. (The girls' names have been reported as Angel and Starlit, though the family has not officially released their names.)

"It's clear they've been on the Internet and know a lot of things," says Tina. "It's clear that Jaycee did a great job with the limited resources she had and her limited education."

Tina tells the newspaper that she and Jaycee watched the movie Enchanted on DVD. The family also drew pictures and played video games. But mostly, the family just talked. Jaycee's daughters talked about animals and climbing trees. Jaycee talked about her love of books. "She likes mysteries," says Tina.

As for the future, the next steps won't be easy. Jaycee and her daughters will enter counseling. Still, despite their ordeal, the daughters seem to be doing well. "I'm a teacher. I know kids," says Tina, "And I can tell you that they are a normal 11 and 15 year old."

Now the family is getting used to the girl who is now all grown up. "[Jaycee] does seem like a 29-year-old woman," Tina says. "She's fabulous, and she's beautiful."

In a brief press conference held in Los Angeles Thursday, Tina thanked authorities and the public for their help and support. "On behalf of my sister, Terry, and the rest of our family, allow me to thank everyone for the prayers and best wishes you have all sent," she said. "The smile on my sister's face is as wide as the sea. Her oldest daughter is finally home."

Tina also clarified the issue of financial assistance for the family. "It has come to my family's attention that there may be unauthorized solicitation of funds to support Jaycee and the family," she said. "The Jaycee Lee Dugard Trust Fund has been set up for anyone inclined to donate."

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