Saturday, June 14, 2014

SAHD Chronicles #3: "fatherlands"

When my eldest daughter was still in utero I was overcome with waves of nostalgia, and an immediate desire to have things from my past. It persisted even into the birth of my second born two and a half years later. Suffice it to say this rather odd impetus has played itself out in different ways, and with different dynamics over the years. As an aside I attribute much of the inception of my blossoming love of History to the upwelling of emotions first encountered in those somewhat emotionally prehensile reminiscences.

I think this being overcome by nostalgia is actually very common, at least among many of my generation -- the Gen X'ers. Quite a number of my friends have expressed similar urges. Childhood in the late 70's and early 80's, at least in retrospect, seemed not just simpler but more simply good. 

Who doesn't want that for their children, a simply good context full of simple goodness? 

Recently my family attended a party hosted by one of my wife's co-workers. As it turns out this co-worker had just recently purchased the childhood home of one of my childhood friends, in my childhood neighborhood and just right around the corner from my childhood home. Of course, on the way home, I drove around the corner to show my children the house I grew up in, and tell the stories of its features: the acre-sized lot I used to have mow as a tween and high schooler, the retaining wall I helped to build as a young man because the rain sent a deluge of mud onto our back door stoop, the trees I would climb to get onto the roof in order to watch the Texas thunderstorms roll in from miles out. 

Driving home from their I took roads the driving of which was done on an almost reflex-like nature. Rather startlingly the area's decades of growth had not changed the course but had changed all of its appearance and sense. The driving of those roads -- which was a comfortable, rote process -- was somewhat jarringly contrasted by the unfamiliar surroundings such that it felt like reclining into something alien, like I shouldn't be as comfortable or natural moving through it as I felt.

As I sit writing about that Sunday afternoon now after the four day vacation which followed it, I am struck by a certain completion to it all, a certain fullness of a dawning awareness that is encapsulated in a quote I heard (it's origins and actual phrasing forgotten) : blessed is the man for whom no land is home but who waits for a coming fatherland, whose native land is a coming kingdom yet known. I think the truth of that notion flies in the face of a certain angst and ennui incipient to the old chestnut that one can never go home again, but there is more to be had of the story before reclining into the comfortable and familiar spot of reflective pontification. 

That Sunday of the co-worker's party we were preparing to take the children to the beach for the first time in their lives. We had wanted to save the experience for when they would be old enough both to enjoy and remember the trip. 

It perhaps the most salient point to note that, having traveled to this beach numerous times growing up and knowing my children so well I was ecstatic. I was coming to a place I knew, and was getting to show them the things which I knew they would delight in, things in which I too delighted and would enjoy experiencing again. I was entirely familiar not only with what to expect of the experience but also with what would be enjoyable. I felt like some existential tour guide of experience. Each squeal of excitement and each cackle of sheer joy, innocent and full, blessed and filled me in itself while also confirming my full expectation of their delight. 

More Importantly they had asked to be brought to the beach, and I was able to give them what they asked, what I knew from my experience was good. I knew I had wanted for my children what they had wanted, what I knew they would enjoy. They had wanted what I had wanted for them. I had enjoyed their enjoying it, and they had enjoyed what I, decades earlier, had enjoyed. I had wanted it for them even where they could not know or grasp how much they would enjoy.

I wonder if this is not in some very true and profound (albeit limited and finite) way the same experience of delight and expectation The Lord God has for us in some of the experiences into which He leads us. The difference of course being His is a fuller understanding, and not every experience in its moment (when it's experiencing in this mortal life is lived and understood both and only linearly and in the context of its moment) is so enjoyable. We, I, so often wrestle with the effort to trust Him when I abstract the experiencing, forgetting His expectation of the goodness (and enjoyment of that goodness) being wrought in that moment yet known perhaps only in the future. And lest it go unsaid or forgotten, even with the suffering in the moment He is well acquainted.

At any rate, it goes without saying His joy and expectation of our coming into His kingdom must surely be like this.


But I digress. The beach and surf and then the state aquarium were enjoyed and, at the end of the time, we made our way home. There is always a sense of alterity in even familiar places and familiar experiences had in non-native lands, such goes without saying. And as the long drive brought us closer and closer to the familiar ecological region and native environs I was struck by the fact that I maintained a sense of alterity to my home city, refraining from reclining fully and satisfied into the familiar streets and sights as if I knew them in knowing their image and their habit in my life. Further so, I found my heart even eschewed as alien the realities of the bent humanity I knew moved beneath the image in my mind of the city, like with the pity looked upon agonized bodies presumed beautiful as they writhe in tortured movements beneath the camouflaging folds of familiar cloaks and garments. And I felt blessed, that while I had come home I was not comfortable with it, that I no longer wanted it as my "homeland", that it's familiarity was no longer sought.

As to that old chestnut about not ever being able to go home again, and to the notion of rote driving of long since familiar seeming roads, well, I think the experience yearned for in the first notion and the jarring sense of removal in the second notion serve to underscore that comforting reality that they were never familiar in the first place, except in the fanciful escapism of an immaturity which didn't yet seek its fatherland. It is better to have found that home was never home, and as such has not been lost to us, and it's familiarity thusly is no longer a lure to an empty promise -- a promise bound to slip ever further away than even does a dream of home upon waking. Let familiarization be that habituation which is a scaffold for the confidence of knowing something well enough, but not else, not more.


And to the wave of nostalgia experienced so early in my parenthood, when contrasted to the joy of "giving them the beach," well, now I can say I know what I want to go forward in giving them, my beloved children: shared experiences of good things, the sharing of which is an experiential picture of that coming fatherland, and a promised unity -- promised because it was prayed for by Him who prayed and prays the Father's Will from within the very fatherland unto which we wait and journey.