No sickness is as untreatable as homesickness. No doctor can cure it, and Walgreens has no prescription for it. And for the unlicensed practitioner, no early warning signs are available. Volatile and capricious, public embarrassment can be the fruit of its emotional shifts. For those with control issues- good luck; for most any little thing can set it off. A song, picture, sound, smell, word, postcard, phone call, or even a distant memory. Yeah, I think memory is actually the most unmerciful instigator for chronic homesickness, because memories are huggers and won’t leave. But for balance, consider that homesickness is only possible when former times were good, when life was full. So here’s to good times, memorably great times, and lots and lots of them! (Hey, we’ll address the aftermath later).
When high school graduation flashed in the rear view mirror, and what to do next was looming like Mt. Everest- I found myself sixty miles away in an unknown city with unknown thousands at a largely impersonal state university. A move of that magnitude may not be recorded as the most courageous of all eighteen year olds, but had you known the socialization womb that formed me, you would have had compassion for the unceremonious uprooting my upbringing was experiencing.
Leaving the fields and forests of youth to assimilate into concrete, traffic and skyscrapers was a process, a rather necessary, but unnatural transition. It’s not to say that travel and discovery didn’t stimulate emotional and mental exhilaration. It did. That new life was action packed- people, places and pleasures of which I’d never experienced was creating new “highs”, and identifying with new surroundings produced a challenging metamorphosis of sorts.
Life continued to unfold after university life, as employment came in our nation’s Capitol with the Federal government. Now, hundreds of miles from the tall pines, rolling hills and dirt roads of rural North Carolina, opportunities to go “back home” were becoming less and less. Yet intuitively, something was amiss in my transition to this supposed “glorious” adulthood.
Something within was yearning to renew something remembered.
Being away, nothing stirred memories of home like December, and especially at Christmas time. The cold and snows of northern Virginia, in both climate and culture, were constant reminders of former times. The faceless masses, concrete sidewalks, blaring sirens and seven lane traffic bombarded my virgin senses; and what was thought to be the “good life”, became the antithesis of what sensibility had engrained. And no matter the efforts to homogenize, a primordial “call of the wild” crept in. Like the proverbial salmon fighting upstream to return to its birthplace, there seemed an instinctive return to native culture and landscape. Existentially, the “home” of my roots had produced a profound effect, and nothing could undo its power.
Lighted trees, creative wreaths, boxed gifts or flashy commerce does not activate the tear ducts. Yet mine did. A lot. And my heart longed for home. Something more than jingle bells and Frosty the Snowman pulled my heart back home; something more internal, something far more spiritual. The trips home for Christmas weren’t mere escapes from the hustle-bustle of city congestion or breaks from work load routine; there was an innate rightness about those returns- the reasonings were meaningful, logical, and a wise alignment with what ought to be.
I was coming home to the truest sense of the word. To what really mattered. To a home of love, of trust, of joy, of peace, of grace; and a life that was created in quietness, was now screaming for a visit.
To mom and dad. To brothers and sister. To family and friends. To fireplaces and fruitcakes. To beagles and pickup trucks. To axes, tractors and wood splitters. To spirited checkers and competitive chess. To skinning deer and squirrel pie. To snowball fights and midnight sledding. To indoor football and hide and seek. To hugs and tears. To singing and scriptures. To pranks and front porches. To pianos, mandolins and guitars. To debates and drama. To dreams and destinies. To love and respect. To hellos and byes. To I really miss you, thank you, and when do I see you again?
Nothing big. Just people. Simple. Real. Life.
T.S. Elliot stated, “Home is where one starts from”; and if true, then no one outgrows his roots. We’re captured by first things, as true as a mother is to a child. I’m persuaded the power of “home” has greater rule than circumstances, or even the will. Two millennia ago, Pliny the Elder said, “Home is where the heart is”; and regardless of human wanderlust, a craving remains for the place remembered as “home”.
Would that everyone had a place called home, but I’m not naive enough to think all have that luxury. So if that holy place has only been a dream, then my prayer is that you with God’s help, create that place- a sanctuary where love reigns supreme. Maybe at home. Maybe at church. Actually, most any place where one could breathe deeply, meditate, and recline. They’d all be perfectly acceptable.
A place where others would come, to hang, to stay. A place to talk, to cry, to remember, to unload, to encourage. A place where timeless simplicity invites the most anxious, fretted, confused, and tired of all God’s creatures. A place where joy is contagious, where making messes lead to laughter, and where old folks and children play with Tonka trucks. A place where life takes precedence over problems, where small talk is delightful, where grace decorates every room.
So go build that home, and watch travelers enter those inviting doors. Engage them genuinely. Feed them with hope. Warm them with compassion. And when time comes, let them leave- it’s ok. Your home became their friend, and their heart will never forget. And as it was intended and should be- neither will you…
And may we remember the gracious words of the One we celebrate, the One who makes all things whole and does all things well: “In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there you may be also.” John 14:2-3