3.27.2013

Wistful Memories of Home


Today I drove BACK to Michigan again (!) to pick up the children (one now vomitting every hour) that I had driven up just four days hence. The 80/90 tollway is everything that the industrial revolution dreamed and the opposite of what humanity needs: a long straight flat road that just goes on and on forever.

My day was partly made better by a great audio book but also by my dangerous decision to snap pictures and turn them into creative collages.  That's a terrible thing to do while driving (I know), but have you driven on 80/90 through Ohio?  It's painfully unremarkable.  And designed to make even the remarkable things seem less so.

When I came up on this Atlas Van Lines truck I was overwhelmed by nostalgia.  I'm virtually sure that when my family moved from Perry, Michigan to Huntington West Virginia, when I was 12 years old we used Atlas Van Lines.  My mother was pregnant and it had been a turbulent pregnancy meaning she had to be bedridden during the move so Aunt Connie came and oversaw the whole operation. Parishioners from the church we were leaving came to help pack and parishioners from the church we were going to came to help pack.  That felt tense and the denomination we were a part of didn't have any say in when or why or how Pastors changed congregations, so, while the whole thing was very carefully contextualized in language of "Calling" and "God's Will" -- the lived reality was: he's leaving this job for that job -- of his own free will.

I wonder if the Perry Parishioners were turning these questions over in their head as they packed and labelled and taped.  I was ambivalent about moving, so i didn't perseverate on the question; I had visited the new home and liked the idea of the big city -- a big, old, Southern Church, a bigger youth group, a school that was structured like a normal school.  On the other hand, I had no sense of what it would mean to leave.

I remember watching the big semi truck pull away from the empty, ghostly house, though and thinking about the idea that "home" was now driving down the road in a semi truck.  Even though I had moved before, the other time seemed more gradual, less jarring.  The idea that the essence of home might be found in the fabric of the sofa, the particular shape of one's bed, in the hanging racks of clothes which would soon fill a new closet -- these ideas were shocking to me.  They made me think start to believe in animism, dark magic and forces of the universe that swirled in magnificent and horrifying ways that extended far past the flimsy constructs of fundamentalist Christian theology  -- particularly in the ways that they shaped out how we thought about our everyday lives.  Our things.  Our stuff.  Our home.

One of my younger siblings wondered if it could be possible that the truck my go to the wrong people's house.  And what if we got someone else's truck, instead?  My parents told us the story about Pepper, the dog who ran away to Chicago on a train, but eventually made it back home not unlike Lassie, but it took him four months and a series of phone calls by the baffled couple who had accidentally claimed him on the train.  That story had always seemed apocryphal and beyond the scope of reality, but them telling it had the curious effect of couching our moving truck fantasy within the bounds of the fantastical and fated.

But a part of me never thought of home in the same way again.   Everything could disappear at any minute.  What's more?  Who's to say which objects constitute the magic spell that binds together home-ness at all?

If a truck bearing "home" can hurtle down the freeway at inhuman speeds?  The magic of the world is dark magic, indeed.

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