This was Joshua’s first word at the age of three. We were on the plane returning home (for us)/leaving home (for him) in between the Detroit and Grand Rapids airports.
I’ll never forget that evening.
He was stir crazy and entirely done with seatbelts at this point in the 30+ hours air travel from Ethiopia, so we broke the rules and let him roam free in his seat. He was looking out the windows, playing with the retractable tray, eating pretzels, learning to drink out of a straw, and looking through the seats gawking at our fellow travelers. He wouldn’t sit still, and I didn’t blame him.
But as if taken by a spell, he sat still with his feet pointing straight as we made our decent into Grand Rapids. He would occasionally prop himself up and look out the window at the lights below and make noises of curiosity. I didn’t know what he understood, but I kept saying a word that would become the first I heard him utter.
“We’re home, buddy. This is home.”
He would recline against the seat back and gaze forward in a daze of sorts. His mumbles and mutterings muffled into silence and with piercing clarity he sighed out his first word…
“Hooomme.” “Hoome.” “Hooooooome.”
He said it with a settled serenity that we hadn’t seen since the day we picked him up from the orphanage. I don’t know this for sure, but I think it’s the first concept he understood.
It’s like there is a homing signal in the heart. A thing that isn’t taught. A longing.
When we finally settled into our home on 121 Parnell Ave, the word remained the first and—for some time—the only word he caught on to as we would slow down and pull into our gravel driveway.
“Hoooomee.” he would say as we bended into the driveway.
“That’s right buddy, we’re home. This is your home.”
Day after day we would stay there, eat there, play there, sleep there…then leave there…but in time return there. (I think this was the most staggering orientation of his spirit…to leave and return to the same place with the same people again and again and again and again.) Home became felt. Home became known. Home became constant. Home became real.
I think we all are looking for home. Shalom.