I had to take some time off before writing this one. It came up on me like a ninja the first time I sat down to write about this song and took me down for awhile. Let me explain. The melody and of this song is all light and fun, a complete Ward and June Cleaver picture of the perfect home and perfect family where there’s never any issues except when the well meaning Beaver stumbles into a life lesson or that rascally Eddie Haskell shows up. As the lyrics questioned if I ever felt that way, I realized that I did not, in fact, feel that way, nor had I ever. I had to re-evaluate my concept on home and that took some time. But considering that I like to chew on weighty concepts for a good decade or so before making a decision, I think this is a relatively fast turn around time. You will be glad to know that I will spare you most of my ruminations on this topic.
I think JM carries those ideas of the idyllic family home and the difference between the ideal and actual experience is the source of much of the tension in his music. This song is JM at his most idyllic. But there is still tension and isolation here. After all, he is repeatedly asking if others feel the same as he does. If he’s having to ask, it means it’s not real in any kind of substantial way in front of him. Maybe the difference between me and JM is that I never had the ideal of the perfect family home to begin with. That’s what happens when you are born into a family built like a landslide.
I remember at a very young age, I had a fascination with drawing pictures of homes. The homes did not have the obligatory stick figure family standing in a row like ducks on a horizon line of grass. Thinking back on this now, I find this detail to be odd. It is as if I thought that if you had the ideal house, the family part of it would fall in line automatically. After my mom got a subscription to Southern Living magazine, my drawings advanced to architectural blueprints of how I wanted to build my house when I grew up. But I didn’t just think about the future, oh no. I also drew out plans for ambitious tree houses and forts I intended to build with old scraps of wood and metal my dad left at various places on the property.
I remember when I was in college, two of the three concrete steps leading up to the front door of my parent’s house had broken into the pieces and there were holes where one’s foot should go. I asked my mom why they did not get new steps because it was such a death trap and she said that they couldn’t afford it and they just learned how to step at weird angles to avoid the gaps. This complacency didn’t sit well with me. I drew up plans for a wooden porch bought the supplies with tips I had earned delivering pizza on nights and weekends. I remember I bought 12′ planks and sawed them to smaller sizes because it was cheaper to do it that way and it was all I could afford. After I finished the project, my mom stared at the porch and then at me in amazement and asked how I knew how to do such things. I replied, “I don’t know how to do it. I just did it.” She still ponders my response to this day.
After moving out of the parent’s house and in with various partners and friends, I spent the years trying to hammer out a home with those people. There were times when I felt like I’d found it – the home I was yearning for, but it was always fleeting. I’ve spent the last year living alone for the first time in my life and I think I am closer to having the home I always wanted. Part of that is not having to deal with other peoples’ shit all the time. I have my own space. The other part of it taking with whatever I can afford or whatever scraps I find along the way, designing something with it and hammering it together to make a space that is mine. I don’t know how to make a home. I just did it.
Still though, I yearn for something that’s not here. C.S. Lewis frequently talked about how those who yearn for the love of God will always long for something, someplace that they can not find in this mortal realm. His most beautiful expression of this is in Till We Have Faces when the young princess Psyche tells stories of how she will one day have a husband who will build her a castle made of gold and amber on a mountain. When she finally finds what she is yearning for, the reality of it is so much greater than anything she could have imagined.
And so it is that even though I am more at home in my space and with myself than ever before, I am still always yearning for someone or someplace that’s not here. I suspect I always will be and I’m mostly ok with that. Do you ever feel that way?