One of my favorite Christmas stories comes from Kenneth Grahame's The Wind in the Willows. In "Dolce Domum," Mole and Rat are trying to make their way back to River Bank in a fierce, mid-December snowstorm. They're hungry and tired and a little lost. Mole - he of superior nose - is sniffing out the way, when he catches a whiff of something else. Home.
Mole had abandoned his old underground home, Mole End, to live in the upper world with his good friends Rat, Badger, and Toad. But struggling through the snowstorm, the familiar scent of his own home proves too much for him. After a heart-wrenching struggle and some tears, Rat realizes that Mole needs to get back to his home, if just for this night.
You'll have to read the story for yourself (and I suggest you do, especially if you only know the Mr. Toad part of the book), but it involves everything that home means to the heart and the senses. Everything that is the special pull of home. The stone, the wood, the doorknob, the floorboards. The chair that fits just you. And, of course, the memories.
I feel that way whenever I pass Strathmore Drive in Atlanta. I've only turned down the street a couple of times since I sold my little house in 2006, but I feel the pull every time I drive down Lindbergh and pass the street sign. I really thought that the only way I'd leave the house was feet-first, but the call to work in New York came out of the blue and so quickly, that I didn't have time to think about what I was leaving behind. Which, of course, was a good thing and the absolute right decision. I love New York, and I love my job. No regrets whatsoever. Just like Mole, who left his underground home to live in the upper world, his version of New York City.
But places that mean home to us - and "home" can mean more than one place throughout a lifetime - still claim a part of us. Sometimes we can go back for a visit. Usually, not. Mole is given a special gift that night, being able to return to Mole End, warm the place up, invite the field mouse carolers in for food and drink, and finally, sleep in his own little bed, all the while knowing that he will leave the place and return to his new, thoroughly enjoyable life in the upper world.
Do you have a home that calls to you, pulls you?But it was good to think he had this to come back to, this place which was all his own, these things which were so glad to see him again and could always be counted upon for the same simple welcome.