Our old home life
“I was never before so eager to cling to every bit of our old home life and to see you…Come and see me, I am homesick…” — C. S. Lewis
Today is my 900th regular post, so I hope you will bear with me as I try something a little bit different. I’m bringing you a snippet of fiction, but first I will lead in with a quote as usual. The quote above is from a letter to his father that Lewis wrote as he was in a London hospital recovering from a battle injury during World War I. Though his relationship with his father was difficult at best (and his mother had died when he was young) there was still a deeply felt bond that tugged at him during his recovery from the horrors of a war that took the life of every one of his Oxford classmates who served alongside him.
As with Lewis, most of us have mixed memories of our early homes. Yet even if we do not remember our childhood days as consistently happy, there is still a strong foundation that we rest on, often without knowing it. I thought of that again recently as I was listening to Maeve Brennan’s beautiful story “Christmas Eve” which is one of several she wrote about the Bagot family of Ireland. I listened to the story via the New Yorker podcast as I was driving to school through the thick traffic that always gathers at the approach to the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel, and what might have been a stressful time was instead a pleasant journey, brightened by flawless storytelling.
The passage below was so lovely that I decided to share it with you, without further comment. I hope it will evoke a warm sense of connection for you, as it did for me.
The hall was quite narrow, and was covered with linoleum, and it served its purpose very well, both as an entrance to the house and as a vantage point from which the house could be viewed and seen for what it was – a small, plain, family place that had a compartmented look now in winter because of all the doors being closed to keep whatever heat there was inside the rooms. In the hall there was a rack with hooks on it for coats, and there was an umbrella stand, and a chair nobody ever sat on. Nobody ever sat on the chair and nobody ever stood long in the hall. It was a passageway – not to fame and not to fortune but only to the common practices of family life, those practices, habits, and ordinary customs that are the only true realities most of us ever know, and that in some of us form a memory strong enough to give us something to hold onto to the end of our days. It is a matter of love, and whether the love finds daily, hourly expression in warm embraces, and in the instinctive kind of attentiveness animals give to their young, or whether it is largely unexpressed, as it was among the Bagots, does not really matter very much in the very long run. It is the solid existence of love that gives life and strength to memory, and if in some cases childhood memories lack the soft and tender colors given by demonstrativeness, the child grown old and in the dark knows only that what is under his hand is a rock that will never give way.