We spent this weekend at a family reunion in south Georgia, the place my mother-in-law grew up; the place where my grandparents-in-law grew up too. It is a signaling beam, a constant. A place so rooted to them, that it beckons to them to come home come home.
And so they do.
And this has got me thinking about homecomings, about those placemarkers we create or have created for us and our inclination to revisit them. I am one of those people that places significance in things, in anniversaries, in events, in names--this makes me a sentimental packrat (examples: the ticket stub with my husband's phone number on the back from the night we met, my son's first birthday candle, my 7th grade junior Beta club pin, my daughter's names, my son's middle name, my tattoo, my too tender heart, my journals...). I know that there are people like me, but I know many that are not (and their homes are more organized, and hearts are clearer, I'm sure). Yet we all long to go home.
Behind me as I sit at my kitchen table, there's a quote taped to the wall by Carson McCullers: "We are homesick most for the places we've never known," and I wonder if she means heaven or if she knows what I've recently learned about memory.
This seemed to me to be a revelation: our memories are fluid things--meaning, what I recall from an event, a conversation, a misunderstanding may be completely different than someone who was with me at the time. You know when you can't sleep at night and your hateful mind suddenly drags you all the way back to fourth grade when you threw up on the school field trip? That's your memory kicking back to a simpler time (not in our lifetime) when we used our memories for protection (i.e. this trail bad. this trail where tigers wait to attack), and now we blip back to the bad things much more often than the good.
I guess that's why we return--for the reminder-ing. It's not that we go back to a place because our memories clang with horrible visions of the past, but because our longings are what buoy us back to the surface. Sure, it wasn't perfect, but it is home.
So, Georgia. My husband is giddy to get back to the place where he spent summers and weeks and weekends. Where he remembers shelling beans on his great grandmother's breezeway (or eavesdropping on the women doing the shelling), fishing with his Papa, blazing down the highway in his Nene's convertible. He's a boy there, and we all need reminding of our childhood self.
Before we even hit the highway, we pulled through a Starbucks drive through. "What this is?" my two year old Silas asks (always asking, always always), "This is Georgia?"
"No, son. You'll know when you're there. You'll see Papa and the pond house and then you'll be there."
You'll know. We'll show you.
Home is a guiding hand, the memory and longing and reminding of goodness and safety and love. Above all, love.