He walked through the front door and breathed it in.
And I was told he place his small, little-boy hand on the wall and spoke the word, “Home.”
I was not there.
I was in the hospital, barely passing the hours of night and day by pressing the self-administering morphine button; I was holding the hope of home in my heart, living past the tragedy of the car accident apart from my family.
And they were coming home. Daddy on crutches—the weight of so much unknown a harder thing to carry than a useless, broken leg—and our four kids were beginning to step back into normalcy. I was out of ICU, off of the machines that kept me breathing and recently established in the trauma ward.
Just the entryway wall, already smudged with so many handprints. But this small caress and a one-syllable word made a picture she’ll carry forever.
He’d been staying at his aunt’s house for a week. In the whirlwind surrounding the accident, the youngest of our kids were whisked to a familiar place, a comfortable place, another home they knew. But it wasn’t their home. Perhaps in his little boy mind and in his palm pressing upon the wall he made the connection that the worst was past, home meant things would be okay, normal.
Wednesdays are the busy days. We have dance class, piano lesson, youth group. It’s an afternoon in the car.
I was thinking about dinner, about what needed to happen from the moment we would arrive back at the house, and Nikko, who was pushing buttons on the Nintendo Gameboy, stopped playing and said from his spot in the backseat of the car, “I was really scared, you know, after the accident when I stayed at Aunt Amy’s.”
I kept driving southward but my thoughts skidded to a halt.
“I bet you were, buddy. I was scared, too.”
“Yeah, I didn’t see you for so long… and I just didn’t know, you know?”
“Yeah, I know. I’m glad you had a good place to stay while I was in the hospital.”
“Me too. But it was scary. I was scared a lot.”
“I’m glad we can look back and think about our feelings, aren’t you?”
“And when the helicopter left, I didn’t see you go in, but I knew it was there for you…I was scared. I didn’t know….”
It occurred to me later that evening, as I sliced onions and oil sputtered in the pan, as dinner came together once again like it does every night, that the bigger boy Nikko was helping the littler boy Nikko sort through the events finding words and ways to understand what had happened over three years ago.
What a gift it is to be one’s own companion in the working out of things held so interior they sometimes get lost in the clutter and shadows of passing time.
I breathed a thank-you that he has the words now, that he has his mom nearby to hear him, that he can speak the truth and say he was frightened. That when the emotions rise and tighten the throat he has a way to accept them and put them in proper and useful places.
Creating a home—a safe place to land, to touch the wall and long for at the end of a long stay away—has become my life’s work. It’s in this home we pray and laugh and argue and give and discipline and become. It’s where we celebrate birthdays and make budgets and dance and sing in the shower. It shelters and protects. It’s where we take pictures on Christmas morning, hair askew. It’s where we gather around the table to eat on the common days and the holidays.
Home is a gift, a blessing. But it’s also a treasure, a thing to be preserved and maintained and defended.
It is a place where walls carry our fingerprints and hold the whispered word, home.
Emily Wierenga writes in her new book, Making It Home:
“I want my home to be a place where I love people into being.
We’re all like broken-down houses—no amount of paint or wallpaper can fill the holes.
And I’m learning it’s okay to be broken like this. To eat chocolate raisins and scroll through Facebook like this while the flood rises. It’s okay to not be as collected as a Pinterest mom who has a chalkboard with tonight’s menu on it, or a bouncy castle for a birthday, or a string quartet for an anniversary.
It’s okay to not always have my hair washed or the jar of cookies filled. It’s okay to order takeout. A mother’s greatest saving grace is the number of a good Chinese restaurant. And it’s okay.
So long as there is love.”
When Nikko touched the wall and said in a childlike whisper, “home”, it was not about the perfectly cleaned bathrooms or the stain-free carpet (hardly that!) but the body of life that exists in these rooms that he is a part of. That body was broken apart for a time, and now, with kids growing up and leaving the nest, the dynamics are different here. Even that wall that he pressed his palm against was torn down in our remodel.
Home has a certain adaptability.
But his hallowed touch remains part of the history of home, his spoken word made it so. It’s where we love one another into being, and that is indeed, holy work.
Emily Wierenga’s blog has been a landing spot for me for many years. Her vulnerability and her sweet humility color every word she writes, imbuing even her hard stories with a glow of grace. Her new book, Making It Home, has been recently released. If you have a moment, pop over to her site and read an excerpt and I think, like me, you’ll find a kindred soul in Emily.