Such a full and throbbing word.
As I sit in silence with the Christmas tree lights lit, I wonder what my children will take with them of this place. Will they remember the climbing wall in their bedroom and the light saber battles across the kitchen? Will they remember the creaking wood floor and the circles they ran between rooms? The little geographies of their days. Will they remember piling on couches to read together and gathering around the table and sharing their stories? Or will it all be a blur? A pile of feelings about a place, but without the specifics. Will they enwrap themselves in their inevitable hurts and failures, carrying them close to them, or will they lay them at my feet one day as they consider how I’ve messed up? And will I have the grace to say, “Tell me more”? Will home ultimately be healing?
We have such meandering paths to home — circuitous routes where we leave, resist, long for, and perhaps return home. I think we all long to enact those hero journeys where we re-emerge at the end, victorious yet chastened and changed. The hero of our own story. But it’s a rather simple plot line.
The problem with coming home is that through the process of leaving and returning, you can never really return, never get back to a moment of unconditional acceptance, without feeling the lurking presence of anxiety or shame. Those two things that tell us, perhaps more than any other, that we’re grown up. We can’t return to a state of blessed self-forgetfulness, to unadorned childhood. But we continue to itch for home. We fill up our the loss that invariably comes with knowing with socially sanctioned forms of distance — with busyness and our phones and food and sex and soccer schedules. Because it doesn’t ask anything of us, distance feels safe and home feels like a fairy tale. A good story, even delightful perhaps, but not true.
Yet, we keep circling, trying to land, trying to come home. We push and pull between wanting home and being fearful of what it might ask of us. There is though, a deep-seating longing to be a part of internal and external spaces that say, “No matter what, you’re okay, I love you.” Home perhaps is more than just a space or place, though it is anchored firmly in our tactile experience. A blanket, the smell of baking bread, the touch of a friend, the kiss of a spouse, the hot mug of tea shared weekly. Home, ultimately, is about belonging. It’s about vulnerability without shame.
And I think we wonder, in this day and age, if there’s any space or anyone that will embrace our shame and give us a hug anyway. So we test out the waters, we travel, we move on from people and places because we long for transformation. And transformation is always just beyond our reach, always “out there.” So we think if we just moved, or tried something new, or read more about it, then, then we’d…what? Be safe? Be loved? Be important? Be successful? Be free?
But home, it sneaks up on you. A place, you realize, suddenly becomes dear to you, or has been dear to you without you realizing it. And almost in the realization, its preciousness is gone. It’s tinged with melancholy as it is thought about and analyzed or quite consciously created. I suppose this is part of what it means to grow up, to age; we reach back to a “golden age” that never existed or we place our hopes on future adventures, never experiencing the moment in front of us. Home is always “out there.”
We’re all longing for home. We’re all longing for safety. We’re all longing to come home to a place where we are cared for and held dear. And we’re longing to not have to hide in order to be embraced, but to lay down our burdens, to own up to our shame and fear. And to take a deep breath and to be welcomed in.