Every family has those childhood stories that get repeated. They are retold so often it’s hard to know what was real or imagined. You find yourself wondering if you actually remember the event or if you just witnessed a secondhand copy. Fortunately for me, some of our stories were backed up by an 8mm movie camera. The difference then, however, is that the movies didn’t have sound. We were left to speculate the contents of the dialogue.
There wasn’t much guessing needed in the film depicting my first trip to the beach as a toddler.
I was sprawled out, face down in the sand, motionless. For some unknown reason my parents had purchased me a red ruffled bikini for the big beach event. I clearly did not have the body for the suit, but for once in my life that fact wasn’t the issue. All you see in the film is me, a red round ruffled bottom and a silent protest. Occasionally, I would look up to see if anyone noticed my unhappiness. The camera would shake (I guess my Mom was laughing), I would look up at her with the most wounded look I could muster and then smack my face right back down in the sand. This fit continues while my older sister, Beth, runs circles around me, makes faces at the camera and frolicks off into the sunset… Typical… According to my parents, I hated the beach. It was one of my first trips away and the only words I repeated over and over again was, “I wanna go home.”
Quite a few years later, a film emerged of us at King’s Dominion Amusement Park. Beth and I are dressed alike in matching blue shirts and khaki pants. Somehow, the elastic waist pants (circa 1979) look much more stylish on her…but again, that is not the issue. We are standing in front of a ride called “The Octopus.” Once more, Beth is waving excitedly and I’m standing silent looking ill. The film was obviously taken right after we finished the ride. Grandmama Rebecca was our escort on this trip (no explanation needed). I did not want to ride anything scary, fast or upside down. Grandmama needed me to ride things with Beth, so she would convince me in line that every ride was like the monorail (somehow, ride names like “the octopus” didn’t clue me in that it might be a dangerous or daring experience). I was a sucker. The octopus was my breaking point. As soon as we jolted into motion, Beth claims that I hollered… “I wanna go home”…. so incredibly loud that they shut down the ride and allowed us to get off. I don’t remember much about that day, but based on the film and the look on my face…it must be true.
It’s funny how these memories jump back into your mind at the oddest times.
The other day, Tuck and I were home alone. He went out into the backyard to test fly one of his airplanes. I had warned him not to do that while Moses, our dog, was out in the yard…but who listens to me?!? A few minutes later, I heard a shrill yelp from the back. It was a combination of Tuck and Moses rolling in a tussle over the airplane. Moses won and shot off with the airplane between his teeth. Tuck fell to the ground dramatically and began to cry. He was already tired from a full day of activity, so I knew this last defeat was going to push him over the edge….and it did. He was a limp heap on the ground. It was a red ruffled bikini scene all over again. So… I scooped Tuck up, took the mauled airplane away from Moses and brought them both back inside. Tuck was still pitiful and crying. In between his tears, I heard him say, “I wanna go home.” The crazy thing was…we were sitting in our living room.
It’s a place I long to be… especially when the going gets tough. But, I’m not sure it’s just a location.
Here I sit in my house, wide awake in the middle of the night and I’m wishing for nothing more than home. I’m like Tuck in the living room, asking to go home. It’s a feeling, not a place. It’s a wish for something better; something to soothe your sorrow.
I once heard a sermon about heaven. The pastor explained that God placed a little piece of heaven inside each of us. It’s just enough to make us yearn for more. It’s just enough to make us expect and wish for something better. It’s a small enough sample to create a craving for home. It points us in the direction of Him. We are all homesick for heaven.
After this year, I hope God will not replay some of the memories for me on a silent 8mm film. I don’t need to see my red ruffled bottom in the air to know that I’ve pouted, kicked the dirt and pitched a fit about how unfair this year feels. I’m sinfully flawed for sure. But in the end, I hope He knows that we are all wanting to go home. Some of us stumble… or in my case…lie in the dirt, but we all know that what He offers is so much better than even the best of what’s around.
God is home.