I can hear my kids coming through the front gate. It’s a sound so familiar it’s in my bones. The creak of the hinges, the clang of the big wooden door being shut in its metal frame, the voices audible but indiscernible, people congregating in the kitchen.
For years, that sound was a big part of my life every afternoon when the kids would come home from school. I’d be working out back in my studio until I heard that sound, and then I’d come in to see them, to learn about their day, what their moods were, who was hungry, who was sad, who was excited about some small victory and who was anxious about some looming due date.
Now that my house has cleared out and my wife and I are empty-nesters, the sound of the gate resonates with me in a whole new way. Three of my children are now living and working in New York City, another, my youngest, is at school in the Midwest. Having them near is no longer a rote experience, it is a rare and exquisite joy.
Today they all came through the front gate as before; each of them carrying their stories of stress and triumph, but as much as the particulars of today’s scenario have stayed the same, the emotions that came to the surface are entirely different. What was once normal, once mundane, has changed; the very act of arriving home is now something of great import.
The meaning of the word itself: homecoming, which says in its beautiful, elegant way, that there is indeed a place to come back to in a chaotic and troubled world, carries with it a far greater degree of depth. Part of what we call ‘deep’ is simply that a thing, or a song, or an event —it makes little difference what it is —doesn’t happen as often as it once did.
Where there is scarcity, we become more alert and more grateful, more cautious about its possible disappearance. Whether it’s the things we long for or the people we love, scarcity makes our attachment infinitely greater. It’s the latter, the attachment to people that interests me today, the day before Thanksgiving.
I’ve had an uneasy history with the holiday since my Father died on a Thanksgiving night in November of 1983. For years the day has held a tang of sadness for me. It has brought up memories of an awful phone call, an agonizing trip to the hospital, and finally, an abrupt and sorrowful ending to my entire life as I’d known it.
Today, however, just as I heard the front gate open, I realized that everything negative, everything sad about Thanksgiving had somehow been transmuted into joy. It was the joy of watching latent hope become finally manifest. I felt a true homecoming of my own.
When the gate opened this afternoon, as it has so many times before, and I heard the voices of my now grown children, I believe I saw something of a Divine plan being played out. I became suffused with the notion that there is hope, even if that hope is so far in the distance that it can scarcely be detected, let alone understood.