We sat under a blue, cloudless sky in one of the nursing facility’s gardens, the large stone fountain’s gurgling interrupted sporadically by finches and a particularly happy mockingbird warning all about the location of her nest. A slight breeze carried with it the promise of Fall but also a chill for my almost 99 year old mother. I reached over to adjust the throw higher up around her neck. She turned her head toward me and pronounced, “I want to go Home.”
I asked, “Where is home?” thinking she might mean Lake, Mississippi which was her place of birth or Mobile, Alabama where she met my father or perhaps San Antonio, Texas where she lived for forty-eight years. Or, did she just mean the assisted living facility from whence she had transferred to the nursing home after a significant fall. I was interested in which of these she would choose. Instead she looked at me intently and quietly said, “That’s a good question.”
It is a “good question” for much of today’s social instability revolves around the concept of home and how we want that home to be. Leaders on all sides of the current social upheaval describe for us the homes they imagine we want: For many home is found in our remembrances of things past that comfort us and we want to recapture that safety, stability and prosperity that is imagined in our minds. Sometimes we capture an image of home with a comfort food that, momentarily, transports us into the past and creates within our souls and bodies the feelings of yesteryear.
For others the imagination of home is how they believe things should be wherein they would feel safe and content. Many believe that contentment should be provided by government, many others believe it is to be attained and maintained through the efforts of the individual and that without invested effort the meaning of home loses context. But, whether home is imagined as a condition of the past or a possibility of the future we forget that both are imagined. Now, Thomas Wolfe astutely reminded us in “Look Homeward Angel” that you cannot go home again. In other words things in your memory are frozen in time while your actual home continues to evolve, people and buildings age, stores and companies come and go; things change but your memory does not. Thus, it is impossible to recapture either the reality or even the essence of your home in the past.
Those who seek utopia in the future fail to grasp the reality of idealism doomed, for just as we cannot freeze time for those who seek less complicated more homogeneous times, neither can we change human nature which, for the idealists, is a requirement for all to live together in a socialist paradise. Consequently, we are trapped in a circular conundrum where there is neither entrance nor exit. It’s like the four tigers in the no longer acceptable tale of the tigers chasing themselves around the tree and eventually melting into a puddle of ghee (clarified butter). Perhaps I should explain that, you see, the tigers have taken clothes from a young man and each of the tigers dons what they have taken exclaiming they are the best looking of the four, tigers that is, and this disagreement evolves into each chasing the others around the palm tree going faster and faster until, yep, they melt. Is that what will happen to us as a society? We’ll become a puddle of congealed ghee? Unfortunately, the answer is yes. Somehow we must break the circular chasing of imagined goals and begin to respond to reality, for the faster we go the sooner we’ll melt.
As for my mother, she knows in her heart the reality is, she is home, but for her and others like her she can, in her mind, safely retreat to any of the homes she wants and not even Thomas Wolfe can stop her.