Dave Rawlings and Gillian Welch sing:
“Where you gonna run, tell me where will you roam
When you can’t go home
Oh pilgrim, you can’t go home”
I’ll be celebrating Homecoming weekend by doing just that — going home. But I’ve learned that “home” can be a weird concept.
Home is where you’re from. My original home is Shickley, Nebraska, population 329 according to the sign leading into town. It might be 35 miles to the nearest Walmart, but there are several different options for a hairdresser and three different churches inside “city” limits, three more if you’re willing to travel a few miles out on gravel roads. What more could you need?
Personally, a lot.
Growing up in Shickley, I learned how to exist as my whole self, a human being with many different interests and passions. I worked hard, got on a few plaques in the school lobby, had my name misspelled in the county newspaper a few times, but opportunities are limited when your high school has 30 people total. Leaving this home wasn’t hard.
“Tell me where will you roam.”
Home is where you experience growth. My transitional home was Hesston, Kansas, where I spent two of the most formative years of my life. The person I was at high school graduation was not ready for Goshen. I needed Hesston first. But Hesston was hard to let go of.
“Oh pilgrim, you can’t go home.”
I recall listening to this line last fall — my first semester at Goshen. It hurt to acknowledge how true it was. In that semester, I wasn’t whole, and I wasn’t home.
Home is where you are. I found out that there was even more to my whole self by making somewhere else home — making somewhere I never thought would be, home.
Many places have seemed like home for me: Shickley, Nebraska; Wood River, Nebraska; Hesston, Kansas; Lancaster, Pennsylvania; Newton, Kansas; and Goshen.
This weekend, I go back to Shickley, one home of many, for the wedding of a lifelong friend. Things are different now. I’m different now. I anticipate being called my sister’s name, avoiding high school classmates and being asked if “Go Sin College” has made me a liberal yet. My mom will forget I’m a vegetarian and try to feed me a giant hunk of home-grown Nebraska beef, and then we’ll all complain about how bad the Huskers look this year even though I haven’t watched a single game. That’s how it is at this home.
But home can be anywhere. Home is where you are whole. And pilgrim, I am home.