Back in 2006, a few weeks after we’d returned from Rome, we were at Best Buy. All of us – me, Mike, my daughter and the two little boys. We were waiting in line and on one of the big screen TVs somewhere in sight, Rome emerged. The camera soared over the domes and swooped through the cobblestone streets, we all turned and – I remember it so vividly – sighed. Every one of us. We sighed.
I’m going through photos of our fall trip now, making albums and framing a few. A few nights ago, we watched Roman Holiday, and had such a good time, not just with one of the most perfect films ever made, but seeing the places we’d been. I was astonished when Michael saw a bit of the Temple of Hercules in the background of one shot and said, “Oh, they’re near the Mouth of Truth now.” Tonight I showed the boys this video on Paris which had just come across my virtual desk.
Did we sigh?
I know I did. I sighed. I want to go back. To all of it. Any of it. But then when I see my own couch in my own living room – or, to be honest, my own kitchen - I sigh, then, too. In gratitude.
Since I’ve been back, people have often asked me if I was ready to come back when we did. Some nod in understanding when I say “yes,” others ask, “Why?” - thinking, perhaps, who would prefer to be in Birmingham, Alabama over Italy or France?
Well, that word is “Home.”
A few weeks before we left for that trip, I went somewhere…where was it? Probably taking my daughter to college. I returned from those three days away, plopped down on the sofa, and I thought, Aaah….home.
And I thought still more…for three months, I’m not going to have that. Not just this specific place but just that general sense of “home.” My place. My home. Do I really want to do that?
Well, I did, and it was good. I wouldn’t trade a minute of it. But it’s still good to be home.
How often did I think during those months away …how perfect this would be if it were Birmingham. That is to say, if all of those fascinating, beautiful places and lovely people were just around the corner from my quirky little bungalow and my creaky front porch.
As I journeyed on, the feeling that grabbed me was the desire to stay in each of these fantastic places with all of these people forever but…. also… for all of it to be… home.
And now, this has evolved into part of my hope. That the place to which I journey now is, above all, that place of perfect redemption, acceptance and love, but it also the place of Everything and Everyone. It is my boys munching apples with a stubborn donkey on a Pyrenean peak and then it is me watching them toss a football in our front yard, and my big kids doing their thing far and wide and calling me at the most inconvenient times to tell me about it, it is the sparkling white stone of Sacre Coeur and the crazy humans milling around it, it is the cobblestoned lanes of Assisi and quiet path to San Damiano where Francis sought Christ, it is ancient homes built into cliffs along the Dordogne, it is the ancient, lively squares of Padua, it is the cheesemonger and falafel vendor in the Uzes market, the cunning fit of the stones of Pont du Gard, the eerie silence of Venetian back streets, the sparkling lights of the Eiffel Tower, the shimmering, flickering candles in Lourdes in processions led always by the sick, in cracked Roman columns and the zipline in the Luxumbourg Gardens.
Everything and everyone. It is the place of hands, hearts and minds of anonymous artists who carved the nooks and crannies of Notre Dame and Chartres, it is the place of Michaelangelo and Caravaggio. It is the place of those who designed almost empty Romanesque village churches and packed city cathedrals, of those who wrote down the notes for the songs they sing there, it is the place of insistent Roman scarf-vendors and brusque French waiters, it is the place of exhausted Parisian Metro riders and bright young Sisters in St. Peter’s Square. It is the innkeepers and dreamseekers I just met over there, it is my wonderful friends Dorian, Bethany and Dorothy who came over to join us. It is Aline and David, my parents, it is Mike, it is everyone whom I’ve ever know and those I haven’t, but who are my brothers and sisters because God loved us all enough to give us not only life, but creativity and humor, ingenuity and a bit of insanity, passion and conviction.
I turn a bit, and I see it. I remember it, I look to it, and I yearn to be… there, with all of them ,with all of you, and most of all, with the One who Is, in that place. You know. Where it’s beautiful and interesting, where you’re so relaxed but you just never want to go to sleep. That astonishing, riotous, quiet, intricate and simple place. Where it all comes together, where we are all together.