The sky was overcast and cloudy and the wind was damp and cold as I drove down long dirt roads yesterday to deliver mail to those who live in rural areas of the Texas Panhandle. I usually enjoy the solitude of dusty dirt roads and a landscape that seems to have changed little in the past fifty years. I pass vacant houses long abandoned and wonder about the families who once lived there and what it might have been like for the children who grew up in these old country houses while I find myself smiling and waving to the people who still call these country houses home. But yesterday as I approached a lone windmill that I use as a landmark on a lonely stretch of dirt, I found myself longing for the comforts of home. Perhaps it was the chill wind and the approaching rain that had me longing for home or perhaps it was the blowing fields of dry grass that reminded me of childhood and simpler times.
The wistful longing brought to mind a particular passage from a much loved childhood classic, The Wind in the Willows, in which Mole and Ratty are passing through a village on a mid-December evening and as they peer through the windows of the village houses they are reminded of the comforts of home. “Once beyond the village, … they braced themselves for the last long stretch, the home stretch, the stretch that we know is bound to end, sometime, in the rattle of the door-latch, the sudden firelight, and the sight of familiar things greeting us as long-absent travelers…. A similar passage is found in the last paragraph of the last book in Tolkian’s Lord of the Ring series, The Return of the King. “But Sam turned to Bywater, and so came back up the Hill, as the day was ending once more. And he went on, and there was yellow light and fire within; and the evening meal was ready, and he was expected.”
For many of us there is just something about home that pulls at our hearts and is difficult to duplicate. It is a place where we are warm and comfortable; it is a place where we are surrounded by things that are familiar; and it is a place where we are expected and welcomed by loved ones. But as nice as it is to come home to the sight of things familiar, warm firelight, and the faces of those who love us, it pales in comparison to that glorious day when the sky is rolled back and the veil is lifted and we find ourselves truly on the threshold of home.