We were snuggled on the couch to watch Beauty and the Beast, all five of us piled onto a single section of the sofa. I laughed to myself about the expanse of available seating to my right when those first fairytale words rang out: “Once upon a time in a far away land…”
We were all ready for the story.
A good story is more than entertainment. It can arm us against folly, soften the hardness of our hearts, and enlighten our minds to understanding. The best stories call out to the best in human nature, even (possibly especially) if they contend with the shadowy parts of our human condition as well.
I thought about all of our family crammed together on the couch, happy to watch one such timeless tale and just be together.
Would my kids remember this moment? Probably not. Key memories will stick out here and there, but more likely than not, a moment like this would just blend together with other similar moments and fill up their overarching narrative of “home.”
Just like a story, a good home can arm against folly, soften hearts, and enlighten minds in unique way. And good stories and good homes must be lived and experienced in order to impart any of their goodness.
It is almost impossible to describe our own conceptualizations of home to someone else, the same way it’s almost impossible to summarize a good story to someone else and expect it to have the same effect as firsthand experience.
So if there is a narrative of home, as such, it is a narrative that extends beyond the capacity of language. It’s something we all carry in our hearts.
If we think of home, maybe at first we see our actual house with all of its physical nuances, furniture, art, and rooms, or a conglomerate of all of the houses we’ve lived in from youth to adulthood. These physical structures blend with the memories and traditions lived around, through, and in them. Layered on top of that are the all the family members, each with their unique and inexhaustible peculiarities and the shades of relationships between them. All of this is interwoven with memories of meaningful conversations, daily responsibilities, and emotions.
This makes up a certain ethos of home we all have and understand, even if we can’t exactly articulate what it is.
And like a story with of all its particular layers working to create something beyond itself, home is more than the sum of its parts. We can communicate a shadow of what home means, but it would be like SparkNotes to the novel.
So the question remains, what story are we writing? If we were to say to our children, “Once upon a time, at home…” what ethos would build in their minds?
We can make it a good one, a true one, even if it contends with those shadowy elements of our human condition, like a good story does. Through prayer and grace we can build a physical, emotional, and intellectual space conducive to a good narrative of home. And that is a beautiful thing. It’s a daring and adventurous thing!
If you’re feeling like home life is all errands and dishes, all nap schedule struggles and homework time, remember this: we are building up the place, the experience, the home, the story that will bring forth goodness, challenge growth, impart truth, and imbue love (laundry and all).
And like a good story, our story of home won’t be without struggle, sadness or hardships. But we get to weave those valleys in with little moments, like family movie night, and big moments alike into a great and beautiful story that echos the goodness to be found our true Home, and do it all in a way that honors the uniqueness of our family’s life, and our own talents and personalities.
That’s truly a great and wonderful adventure.