Every year Dad took a picture on the first day of school. I missed out on kindergarten, a gap that has impeded my academic career enormously, but first grade came and off I went. My favorite picture and memory of that day wasn’t at the start or during the day, though Clendenin Elementary School was great.
The image I like best was coming home and greeting my little brother, Daniel, and giving him a huge hug. Everyone was wrong: I could go home again.
I know what they mean when they say you cannot go home again, but it has never been totally true for me. Every Christmas when I see Dan or Mom and Dad, I do go home again. Even death has not cheated me, because if I close my eyes then I am once again on 1908 Preston Street in Charleston and Granny is bringing me a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on white bread (so soft, no crusts) while I watch cartoons on the floor in front of their fabulous color television.
Age will steal memories eventually, but then I wonder if I will not gone all the way home in my mind.
If, as Christians believe, no good thing is ever lost, then I have hope that all my homes, all the aspects of joy in each, will be there. I will be able to smell cut grass while laying on the hill and looking at the West Virginia sky. Our tree fort, so mighty, will still be standing in Penfield. Nana will play the word game with me and Aunt Karen will be directing a high school play.
My secularist friends might say that is merely wishful thinking . . . and it is a wish, but also the result of thinking. There is evidence for life after death and a good God guarantees that this life will be good, as good as it can be. It is pleasant to think that all good things will return, but that is a good reason to hope it is true, not a good reason to doubt it.
Many things I dread never come to pass and much I wish to happen does. When I am disappointed in my wishes, and sometimes even a reasonable wish fails, then at least I had the pleasure of anticipation. If Christmas did not come this year, it would not make Advent less pleasant, assuming I did not know the End was nigh.
All my life I read of England and longed to go and when at last I went, it was more wonderful than I had dreamed. It was real and the London of dreams was nothing compared to reality. Could anyone imagine anything more beautiful than Tower Bridge at night or standing looking at the Houses of Parliament on a summer night?
It was Wordsworth’s poem, but in three dimensions.
As my daughters and sons head off to various colleges with Jane heading for high school, I am reminded that they too will come home again if they choose. God help me to be there waiting on that Last Day of School to greet them.