In this post I will try to explain how going home is like going to heaven, and also how going home is my worst nightmare.
I have more nightmares about going home and not belonging than I do about anything else. And when I do come home, for real, I always get hurt deeply over small things. Mostly about where I sleep.
My beloved Manderly was taken over by Jenny not long after I moved out. Since then I have stayed in places like the attic, the playhouse, and the movie room.
Every time I come home I have this wonderful little image that plays out in my head. My siblings all gather around, unfathomably excited that I’m coming home. They clear out the attic/playhouse/movie room, and clean it floor to ceiling. In some daydreams they even add a coat of pale green paint. Then they move in my favorite bed and a little round table with a teapot on it and a vase of flowers and a sign that says, “welcome home Emily!”
Instead, someone always seemed to say something like, “well, here is a mattress sort of thing. Can you move it into the attic/playhouse/movie room? Get blankets and pillows from the blanket cupboard.”
Somehow this hurts me more than I could say, and spawns nightmare after nightmare.
I didn’t talk to anyone about this for a long time, since it felt like such a silly thing to get upset over, but finally the nightmares were so bad I talked to my mom about it. That cleared some things up, but there were still some awful misunderstandings and miscommunications.
We agreed that I would stay in Jenny’s room during the time I was home this summer. And then I asked if I could re-do the movie room, and put my favorite bed in there, and paint the walls, and have that be my place to stay whenever I came home.
Mom seemed to think that was a good idea.
Well I flew to Oregon, and on the trip home from the airport I excitedly began to tell Amy all my plans for the movie room. She looked a bit uncomfortable. “Actually Emily,” she said, “when mom brought that idea up at the dinner table no one was very excited about it.”
I pretty much went crazy right then.
All I could think was, “I don’t belong here. They don’t even want to give up the movie room to me for a month and a half. I will never belong here.” And the most evil fit of depression grabbed me by the throat.
I wanted to go back to Virgina on the next possible flight.
“What is wrong with me?” I thought, “I can handle anything life throws at me with a strong face except coming home and finding out that no one wants me to take over their precious movie room.”
But for some reason, belonging at home is the most important thing.
I was violently depressed for a day or so before I began to pull out of it. How it happened was this: Amy decided to give me half her room. She moved her scrap-booking table so I could put my favorite bed in, gave me closet space, and let me help decorate. So it wasn’t her room anymore. It was our room. And whenever I came home, she said, that bed would be right there waiting for me, and it would be my bed.
Now I am happy, and not just happy, but so happy, like I didn’t really know was possible unless you are in love. Everything is so beautiful here. And everyone knows me and loves me. The shelves are full of beautiful books and the movie room is filled with beautiful movies. My siblings laugh and are the most beautiful people I have ever met. There are cousins and little places that you have seen so many time you know them by heart. And there is work to do, and the world smells like grass seed dust which is the most beautiful smell I have ever smelled.
I think home is the closest thing to heaven I have ever seen.
Esta was telling me once how she always felt that C.S. Lewis had an interesting view of heaven. Many people seemed to talk about heaven like it was this outlandishly beautiful place that you would stare at in awe for eternity. But C.S. Lewis described heaven as the sort of place where, once you were there, you would sigh in contentment, knowing that this was where you were always meant to be.
Heaven is going home and finding your family waiting for you, and a bed that is yours, and knowing that you belong there and will always belong there.
If you don’t belong, that is your worst nightmare.