Today I found a half-finished poem I wrote a few years ago about my first home—a duplex in Olathe, Kansas. The poem was far from polished, but I smiled as I remembered the objects or events I had commemorated.
- The large cabinet piano with the scratch on the middle C key that taught me proper hand positions when I was five.
- The air vent with the grate that had just enough space for my brother to slide lettuce through its slits. My mom thought he must have developed a taste for salad—he hadn’t.
- The fireplace where I made my debut solo for my mom’s video camera when I was two. “I’m a little teapot, short and stout. Here is my shoulder, here is my hip.” (My volume and enthusiasm were good—my ability to stay on tune and my knowledge of a teapot’s anatomy were less so.)
- The roof that had been re-shingled when I was seven, providing an entrepreneurial opportunity for me when my dad rigged up a magnetic trowel for me and promised a penny for every stray nail I found.
- The sides of the house that had once been painted a bright, pumpkin orange due to a misconception of how a paint chip’s color would look on a whole building.
The pictures in my mind of those times are still so vivid, so full of sensory details. I’m not sure whether that’s because I was so young and my brain had plenty of space to fill, or whether it’s because that house will forever be my childhood home, the place where I spent the majority of my growing up years.
In a conference workshop I attended a couple weeks ago, the presenter said that the two most powerful words in any language are a person’s own name and the word “home.” I don’t know what kind of research has been done to back this statement up, but I know I’ve found it to be true in my own life.
For the past eight or nine years, I’ve found the theme of home popping up again and again in my writing. A character might spend most of a story searching for a place to call home, but the finding of home, whether that place be physical or emotional, always provides a warmly satisfying dénouement.
I wonder if that’s because the last six or seven years have brought a fair amount of upheaval and confusion as to where my “home” even is. At eighteen, I moved nine hours away for college. During my first year there, my home was definitely still in Kansas, and I missed it intensely at times. About halfway through my sophomore year, that began to switch, and I began calling my college campus home—but my parents’ house was still home too. So, for the next two and a half years I found myself torn between two homes.
While living in Indianapolis for a year after graduation, I learned that individuals in poverty often refer to their house as the place they “stay” rather than where they “live,” simply because the days and weeks ahead are so uncertain that they’re never sure how long they will remain in one place. I experienced some small taste of that while I lived in the city. The house I lived in with the other community center interns was a former halfway house that had been nicknamed “The Palace,” but it never felt quite like home. It was just the place where I ate and slept.
That following spring, I read these words and felt released to return home to Kansas.
The man from whom the demons had gone out begged to go with him, but Jesus sent him away, saying, ‘Return home and tell how much God has done for you.’ So the man went away and told all over town how much Jesus had done for him. –Luke 8:38-39
For a year and a half now, I have lived at home again. About a month ago, I moved into my own apartment and found myself confused over my wording again. Was my new place home, or was my parents’ house home? Currently, I find myself using the word to refer to both.
And I think that’s okay, because I wonder if home is something we’re even able to experience in the fullest sense of the word while we’re on this earth.
I ran across one other old poem today also, this one a reflection on the Chronicles of Narnia, and Aslan, and that deep longing I sometimes feel at the sound of his call to come “further up and further in,” as I want so badly to reach the better country.
All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them. –Hebrews 11:13-16
I long to find that city, even ache for it sometimes, wishing to withdraw from my role as a stranger on earth. But it’s a good ache. And tonight, in my imperfect search for a place to call my own, a place to call home, I will rest in that ache, because it stems from a longing that won’t last forever. Like any journey, the most beautiful part of this one is the fact that it ends in reaching Home.