"It's the simple things – those are the things that are the most precious," a family friend tells PEOPLE

By Liz McNeil
May 11, 2013 10:05 AM
AP (2)

Is there anything more comforting than Mom’s meatloaf?

After a decade-long nightmare as a prisoner inside the home of alleged kidnapper Ariel Castro, Gina DeJesus, 23, is now focusing on the simple things and the healing comforts of home.

“Gina wants to go back to school, get her driver’s license and get a haircut,” says Matt Zone, a Cleveland city councilman, who has spent time with the DeJesus family in the days since Gina came home. “She wants to learn to put on makeup, all those girly things. It’s the simple things – those are the things that are the most precious to her.”

Gina’s parents, Nancy Ruiz and Felix DeJesus, are doing everything they can to help her heal from the kidnapping ordeal she went through alongside Amanda Berry and Michelle Knight – including preparing Gina’s favorite home cooked meal. “Gina told me all she wanted me to do was make my meatloaf for her,” Ruiz told Councilman Zone. “Nancy said, ‘I’m making my baby some meatloaf.’ ”

Zone, who has kept in touch and visited the family since Gina’s disappearance in 2004, says they told him, “We’re going to keep it as positive as we can.”

In fact, Zone noticed a big change when he visited the home Thursday morning, after Gina’s first night back with her family. “There had always been a sense of sadness because their daughter wasn’t there,” says Zone. “But this time, there was a sense of calmness. Their little girl was home.”

Gina, 23, has a lot to catch up on. When her mother spoke Spanish to Gina’s sister, she said: “Mommy, what did you say?” Explains Zone: “Gina can’t speak Spanish because in ten years she hasn’t conversed in Spanish.” So Ruiz told her daughter: “I’m going to teach you.”

After surviving unimaginable terror, DeJesus is now surrounded by her family’s love and support. “They are an incredibly strong family,” says Zone. “It’s a real testament to their love and their faith. They never really accepted the fact their daughter was gone.”

MORE: All the Stories on the Cleveland Kidnappings and the Girls’ Rescue