I know there have been more than a few nostalgic posts about home—leaving, returning, etc—over the past few weeks, but I hope you’ll permit me at least one more. We’ve been back home in southern Alberta for just over two weeks now, and given that I don’t officially begin in my new position until August 1, I have had a fair amount of time for reflection upon the nature of “home.”
I’ve been “arriving home” for the past two weeks. We’ve moved into my grandmother’s house—the same house that I used to come over to for sleepovers when I was a little kid, the house where I would eagerly look forward to such delicacies as Zoodles and Wagon Wheels—and are starting to reacquaint ourselves with the town and the neighbourhood. Last night, while walking the dog, I walked by the house our family lived in as a toddler followed shortly by the house whose grungy, half-finished basement my wife and I called home for half a year or so after we got married (we were still teenagers!). Then it was on past the rink where I played hockey, the corner store we went to for slurpees, and a number of houses of high school friends where I would hang out after school. All this in a thirty minute walk! How very strange this all feels.
Strange… and good. Two days ago we attended the closing barbecue at the church where our kids attended VBS this past week. The sun was shining, kids were laughing and playing, there were tables and chairs set up in the parking lot, with people spilling on to the street. Bikes were strewn about the front lawn (unlocked!), and it seemed like every direction I turned my head there was a friendly face wanting to say, “Hello! Welcome home! Good to see you again. How have you been? Boy your kids have grown…” It’s nice to be known like that.
Of course, we’re well aware that there are challenges with coming home. I’ve already some variation of the “so what do you think? Is a prophet ever welcome in his home town?” comment. I’m not sure—about the “prophet” or the “not being welcome” part…. And nothing ever stays entirely the same. For all its familiarity, the town has changed, too. The change are small—barely recognizable to an outsider, perhaps—but things are not exactly as I remember. And we have changed, too. We are obviously not the same people we were when we left six years ago, and we will be stepping into different roles, different expectations, different networks of people, etc. For all of the good and healthy things attached to coming home, it will take some getting used to and growing into, this homecoming.
“You can’t go home again,” goes the famous expression from Thomas Wolfe’s novel, and it certainly points to challenges that are real. But surely this doesn’t tell the whole story. Surely there are other possibilities as well, where coming home, with its complex mixture of joy and belonging and disorientation and longing, can be, like so many things in God’s good world, received as a gift with gratitude and expectation. Maybe the most and the best we can ever hope for in our travels is to be almost home. Maybe this is how it was meant to be.
Image courtesy of Russell Berg at Seeing Berg.