Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Homecoming

Christmas is the penultimate time of homecoming. However, when I say “homecoming,” I find that the meaning changes and grows more complex every year. When I was a child, homecoming was not a trip as it was always with my parents and sister, wherever we lived. In college it meant driving home to Pensacola, although it was beginning to feel less like my only home as I was growing up and becoming more independent. After college I spent one Christmas in Indonesia and the next in Thailand, among friends, homesick for my family and Stateside traditions, but still comforted by the familiar message of Christmas. Since I’ve been married, home has been multiple sites: my parents’ home, my inlaws’ home, and the homes my husband and I have made in three different states. The list of geographical places I come home to keeps growing, and there are all kinds of experiences that give me that peculiar feeling—smells, tastes, songs, photos, old journals, and oft-read books.

C.S. Lewis talked about people having this desire for home. And yet, when we “go home,” it’s never complete. It is happy but never permanent, we’re subject to arguments and illnesses, there are absent members and interlopers, and houses feel more or less like homes as we change. Lewis says we have this feeling because we are imperfect creatures cast out of Paradise, living in the world now as transients (regardless of whether we rarely leave our native towns or are manic travelers). We’re all born with a vague memory of Eden, and we all long for it as our ideal home. Our earthly “homes” offer small glimpses of it.

I don’t think anything expresses this idea/emotion better than my favorite chapter in The Wind in the Willows, which is set during Yuletide. You can read it online by clicking on the link below.

Chapter V – Dulce Domum

I find the final paragraph profoundly moving and always choke up. “He [Mole] saw clearly how plain and simple—how narrow, even—it all was; but clearly, too, how much it all meant to him, and the special value of some such anchorage in one’s existence. He did not at all want to abandon the new life and its splendid spaces, to turn his back on sun and air and all they offered him and creep home and stay there; the upper world was all too strong, it called to him still, even down there, and he knew he must return to the larger stage. But it was good to think he had this to come back to; this place which was all his own, these things which were so glad to see him again and could always be counted upon for the same simple welcome.”

1 comment:

Kevin said...

This was a beautiful posting. Thank you.