I grew up a little last week when I realized that Dorothy, as it turns out, was right. There really isn’t a place like home.
West Point is unique in that at any one time 6,000 people might live on the military base premises, while countless others nostalgically remember it as the place they stole their first kiss, tasted their first beer, or started kindergarten (hopefully not in that order). It is home to the masses, but it is also home to no one. In fact, no one owns private property at West Point. My sister Leigh jokingly referred to their beautiful 4-bedroom, 3-bath newly-constructed, government-subsidized home as her “Obama house,” since tax-payer money pays the mortgage. The communism of it all is ironic, when you think about the thousands of cadets going to school every day to learn how to defend the democratic capitalist freedoms you and I enjoy. And for years, all I’ve wanted is to be back home in the commune.
In four years, cadets graduate and leave West Point. In two or three, or (if you’re lucky like my family was) seven years, the faculty leave too. West Point’s gate is not a threshold, but a revolving door.
It felt satisfying to show off my former home to Patrick, to convince him that it was as good–no better–than I remembered. The views are spectacular, the streets are clean, the children are safe to roam and play. The whole time, as I described my memories to my patient husband, it was as if I kept asking can’t you see why I wanted this to be home? Can’t you see why I miss it?
And in that quiet, nostalgic desperation, Patrick quietly awakened me to the reality that this feeling is not unique to Army kids. That even kids who grew up in one town can feel homesickness for– a place they can’t name. Even if you own your own home, he reminded me, it is still temporary.
There really isn’t a place like home–though we all want it so desperately. Maybe we get a glance of it, or a taste of it every now and then. A time when your family is in tact and all feels right in the world, your friends are all getting along and spending time together every night, you feel settled for once. But it doesn’t last. It’s not home, it’s definitely finite.
So, Dorothy was right after all. I want a home, but I haven’t found one that lasts. It reminds me of C.S. Lewis’ famous musing. “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”
I look forward to the time where my desire for home is fully realized, in the arms of my Father, surrounded by all of my brothers and sisters, in the heavenly neighborhood where all is shared, and no tear is shed. It’s hard to imagine. And then, and only then, will we be able to say with confidence that there is no place like Home.