Sunday, July 17, 2011

Home - the Place I Return

[I posted this last year in contemplation of the adventure we're about to embark on, though I didn't know where or how then. I've been contemplating it some more and wanted to first refresh the old ideas before starting in on the new.]

A man's home is his castle.
Home is where the heart is.
Home is where you hang your hat.
Home is where you clean up after your cat. (that's Mom)

I was writing a book review Friday by a woman who falls in love with every city (and most every person) she meets as soon as she gets there.

That's not me.

I imagined being on a job interview and while being driven back to the airport having someone ask me if I thought I would like living in their area. Now I'm not stupid, so I know the Right Answer is "Yes, I would really like to live here." (Please hire me.)

But my overly brutally honest answer was, "I tend to mock any place I live." I criticized Santa Barbara thoroughly as a teenager (pretty normal behavior, I'd say). I mocked Utah and Provo almost without mercy during my undergrad - letting up a little my senior year. I spent more time enduring and chuckling over Germany than immersing myself in it. Ithaca was never meant to be home, so I felt free to attack it every chance I get until a couple years ago when I decided it had gone on long enough and I might as well start to accept this place.

And yet.

Only shortly after leaving Santa Barbara, I referred to it as The Second Garden of Eden. When Joy and I went back to Provo a couple years ago to introduce our newborn son to her family, it felt so wonderfully like home that I began thinking I could really enjoy not just going back to teach at BYU, but to live in Utah. That's when I started defending Utah to the denizens of Ithaca. When we went on our honeymoon, we spent some time in Germany and many of my favorite memories were the few days we spent back in my first area with people and streets I loved. 

It's not about not being happy where I am or thinking I will finally be happy once I get somewhere else. I was very happy at BYU and knew I was. I was happy on my mission (for reasons not easily fathomed) and was not eager for it to be over. I enjoy life in Ithaca. There's so much to appreciate: greenery that makes Santa Barbara seem more a desert oasis, waterfalls and brooks within walking distance, a diverse and stimulating populace that brings together a cornucopia of cuisines and cultures.

Today I understand it better. I was reading a blog by someone who is leaving her post in Goma, eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. She doesn't know where her next job will be, or even if it will pay her as her humanitarian work has taken her to many unpaid places, each of which has been home with a vitality and brilliance of description that is delightful to read and experience second-hand. I sent her a quick comment, asking her what "home" meant to her after all this as she sat in her parents' house with her feet in the kitchen sink so she can use her neighbor's wireless connection (with permission).

It suddenly hit me as I asked her. I know what home means to me.

Home is the Place I Return To.

I almost cry as I realize it. Our entire theology is based around the idea of leaving Home, going to a strange place full of temptation and trial, wanderers in a strange land, with finally returning Home as the ultimate goal. Return with Honor. I was on my mission when I realized that's what Heaven meant to me: returning Home.

At BYU, Home was Santa Barbara. To my mother's dismay, though, as soon as I got there I referred to my dorm room as Home. Back at the dorm room again, it was returning to the temple that felt most like Home.

Because of that, I'm starting to think, not only is this mobile home my Home, but to a certain extent my office is becoming Home; the church building is Home; the temple is Home; our best friends' apartment is Home; the little brook in the woods a short walk away is Home; even the grocery store I frequent and the buses I take are a little bit of Home. Someday, God willing, I will get out of here. And for the first time, I hope that someday I will return and rejoice to be Home.

Home is the Place I Return To. And now I know the answer I will give on a job interview, correct and honest, when I am asked if I would like to live there: "I would love to Return here and make this place a Home."