He saw clearly how plain and simple–how narrow, even–it all was; but clearly, too, how much it all meant to him, and the special value of some such anchorage in one’s existence. He did not at all want to abandon the new life and its splendid spaces, to turn his back on sun and air and all they offered him and creep home and stay there; the upper world was all too strong, it called to him still, even down there, and he knew he must return to the larger stage. But it was good to think he had this to come back to; this place which was all his own, these things which were so glad to see him again and could always be counted upon for the same simple welcome.
The Wind In The Willows, Kenneth Grahame
A few months ago, we read this chapter of The Wind In the Willows in school. As I often find, it spoke to my heart on a deeper level than the superficial storyline level that the boys were hearing. If you haven’t read the book, I’d highly recommend it. In this chapter, Ratty and Mole are walking back to Ratty’s abode after being cooped up underground at Badger’s house. They walk through a village when Mole starts to get a sense that causes deep memories and emotions, through his sense of smell, prompting him to realize that he’s very close to the home he abandoned at the beginning of the book. I don’t want to give away the whole chapter, lest you haven’t read it, but let’s just say that Mole’s sense of smell toward his home and his memories of what a “home” is are part of a very powerful Christmastime experience for him.
As we look toward Christmastime, home becomes a very integral part of many stories in the hearts of those I love. I’ve been silent in this space because of some of those stories lately. I lost a friend to a very quick bout of cancer and am finding ways to process the shock and grief. The home of her family will be very different this Christmas. My parents moved from their home of 20-plus years, and have now found a beautiful new home. As we move toward refugee ministry in France, my thoughts are often drawn to those without homes and grieving the loss of home. This Christmas will find them in a place they never anticipated. And home will look and feel and taste and smell different than what they planned. Our own home is going through aches and pains of losing and stretching as we face the prospect of moving. So our Christmas in this little home is very poignant.
I really love the phrase that Kenneth Grahame used to title this chapter: Dolce Domum. Sweetly at home. Because, let’s be honest, with three boys and a girl ages 7 and under, we may be at home often, but it doesn’t always seem sweet. But as I take a step back and process all of the changes swirling around us, our home does seem to be a bit of a haven. The world around us is filled with chaos and confusion, sin and wickedness. But home. Home is where we can be together, safe and secure. A place of a same simple welcome, a place we can come back to.
But it was good to think he had this to come back to; this place which was all his own, these things which were so glad to see him again and could always be counted upon for the same simple welcome.