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Tell Me, What is Home?

August 16, 2009

I have always had a sentimental attachment to trains.

In all of the traveling I’ve done, some of my favorite times have been on trains. Some of my most memorable (and crazy) moments and conversations, smells and feelings nestle themselves in the memories of trains and train stations. I have written stories on them. I have framed ideas around them. I have loved them for many, many years. I distinctly remember the first train station I ever stood in. It was in Florence, Italy in 2001 and it was exactly what I had always hoped a train station would look like, with its enormous clocks with burnished brass hands and departure and arrival boards that buzzed every few minutes as the times and places flickered on into the past. It was beautiful and it captivated me.

As I stood there again in 2006, gazing at those same buzzing boards, it still felt the same to me — busy, yet still and framed in its timelessness; noisy, yet quiet with how it settled into a familiar place in my heart; old-fashioned, but always something new to see. It still felt like home.


There is this beautiful song by Jon Foreman (second blog mention in the past week or two; enjoy the free PR, Jon) called Southbound Train that I first discovered this past winter when I came across his EPs, “Fall and Winter.” I have listened to this song probably hundreds of times (I really love it) and I don’t think until today, in the shower (I do some very good thinking in there), I really started to conceptualize what it was about.

Here, listen to it, or skim the lyrics, to give yourself some footing on the song.

Ready? Great.

When I tried to explain this song to people and why it hit me so hard, right in my center, this was what came out: “It’s this song about how the woman he loves is like a train.”

Okay, that is a terrible explanation and not at all what it’s really about. I knew how it made me feel, but when I tried to explain it, people gave me the most peculiar looks, like “A song about how a woman is a train? Like a train with wheels and axles and coal and an overpriced dining car? A TRAIN?”

Then today, I am scrubbing my hair with my delightful tea tree shampoo and it came to me. She is not a train. She is home — she is where the train is going. One of my favorite lines in this song is, “I’m headed home, yeah, but I’m not so sure that home is a place you can still get to by train.” As he continues to sing, it hits you — this woman with the bright blue eyes, his “sleeping girl,” is home to him, she is where he is heading no matter what direction the train is going. As he is riding this train, all that is surrounding him, the clouds, the ocean, the train itself, reminds him of her. In that moment, home is not a destination or a point at the end of the track, home is this person. He could be anywhere in the entire world, and as long as this person is there with him, home is there. He can touch and feel and taste and smell and curl up next to home.

And there is something very powerful, very passionate about that, and about this idea of “home.”

Back in 2004, in my pink Converse, sitting next to the first boy I ever loved, I watched this movie called “Garden State.” Now, to us pseudo-emo kids at that particular moment in history, this movie was it, it was the cat’s pajamas, it was full of meaning and suffering and love and a great soundtrack. I do believe Andrew Largeman (Zach Braff) even wears Converse (and Natalie Portman listens to the Shins…it was an emo kid’s dream). Now the point of this nostalgic throwback is this: my favorite scene, the one that this boy and I sighed and held hands over, was this scene that takes place in an empty bathtub.

Andrew is sharing some heavy memories about his deceased mother and Natalie is catching his tears in a Dixie cup. All very romantic stuff. He leans forward on her shoulder, and breathes out the most memorable line (for me) of the whole film.

“Safe… when I’m with you I feel so safe… like I’m home.”

So it comes to this: what is home? An idea, a feeling, a person, a place, a pair of shoes, or a special book? That moment right before it starts to rain, or a deep breath of early morning air? Memories or old journals or your mom’s recipe for macaroni and cheese?

Well, if you ask me?
I’d argue…

Home is all of those things and more; I suppose anything that gives me a glimpse into the joy that God created me with — any kind of connection or thread to that longing that CS Lewis (my main squeeze) wrote so much about.

Home are the people and places and things and moments that I find myself in that connect me with the kingdom of God, with the exquisite joy that was placed within me from the very beginning. Home is sometimes communal, sometimes secret, sometimes a little of both. Home to me can even be people that probably don’t even realize that they ARE home to me. But all these things, all these hints and reminders, are just that — a whisper of the true home that waits for us on the other side of the valley. Home is here but it is also there.

What is home to you?

5 Comments leave one →
  1. August 23, 2009 7:28 am

    Hey girl, I have returned to reading after a camp-filled summer. Hey Caroline!

  2. Jeffrey permalink
    August 24, 2009 10:24 am

    Hey Caroline,

    You took the pictures at the train station & that of a girl walking on the railway track yourself? They are pretty nice pictures & really great shots, if u took them. Am learning photography too – πŸ™‚ thinking of getting a good SLR πŸ™‚


  3. Caroline permalink*
    August 24, 2009 10:42 am

    @ Glo!

    Welcome back, you TST maniac! It’s good to have you reading and commenting again. πŸ™‚

    @ Jeffery!

    Alas, I cannot take credit for the photography. I used Google Images — though sometimes I will use photos I take myself (I like photography too, but have a lowly point-and-shoot, no SLR for me).

    Thanks for commenting! πŸ™‚

  4. August 24, 2009 3:03 pm

    Funny. Same movie, but the quote that stuck with me was from the swimming pool, not the bath-tub.

    “You know that point in your life where you realize that the house you grew up in isn’t really your home anymore? All of a sudden, even though you have some place that you put your [stuf], that idea of home is gone?

    …You’ll see one day when you move out – it just sorta happens one day – its gone. You’ll never get it back. Its like you feel homesick for a place that doesn’t even exist. Or maybe its like this rite of passage, you know? You won’t ever have that feeling again until you create a new idea of home for yourself – you know – for, for your kids, for the family you start – its like a cycle or something. I don’t know…but I miss the idea of it. Maybe that’s all family really is – a group of people that miss the same imaginary place…

  5. Caroline permalink*
    August 24, 2009 7:34 pm

    @ David!

    That was the other quote I thought about using, but it didn’t quite work in the context of “home” that I was considering.

    However, it is absolutely awesome and go Zach Braff and thanks for putting it up here. πŸ™‚ It deserves its own space.

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