Home is Wherever I’m with You

In Holland, the sky has a cap (Dutch word is ‘pet’) on it. The land is low and long, and feels endlessly wide, but finite and contained, because you feel the weight of the ever-present gray. In Florida there is no ceiling to the sky.

In Florida, the air has a density and moisture you can almost taste. “Rotting vegetation,” says my friend Jan.

By the way, Jan is a common man’s name in Holland, and the “J” is pronounced like a “Y.” Not Jan Brady, but “Yawn Brady.” Jan the  man’s name is often paired with a second name. Geert-Jan (sounds like “Hurt Yawn), Henk-Jan, Jaap-Jan to name just a few. (My Floridian friend Jan is a woman.)

Sometimes it is hard to believe that I’m here, sitting in front of the window, watching two trees bow toward each other by a canal in Amsterdam. For a moment this summer life here was bright and rapid, and then the sun begins limbo-ing away from us here in the North, and the skies become serious again, and the trees are still, waiting for winter.

When I was a small girl living in Orlando, maybe about seven or eight, I had vivid dream about living by a canal with a man who was my husband. There it was, just outside our door, and inside the house was bookshelves and a coat rack. Because I was dreaming I was an adult woman, I remember the surprise I felt at being more comfortable in my own skin. I woke up thinking how wonderful it would be to be a grown-up someday.

Frans and I live on the edge of one of the widest canals in Amsterdam, and he has drilled holes into the concrete wall for coat hooks.

We have been married almost two months.  Last year I was beginning my final year of grad school, I was a TA, and I lived in a small Florida bungalow with my friend Becca. Sometimes I feel the identity shift sharply, like the shelf on which my selfhood sits has become tilted, and everything is in danger of sliding off. But then I look out toward Amsterdam from our own window in our own home. It’s ours. Whatever happens next is ours to share.

That’s comforting. But I also realize that it’s easy to stop there. Frans = home. Easy formulas, easy conclusions.

(I don’t like those…and I often think the easy formulas miss the important stuff.)

On one of my runs through Vondelpark, my iPod hit upon a song that’s been making the rounds in the States. The song’s lyrics, which I’d heard here and there and sung along to, and is now part of cell phone and car commercials, seems to me a central characterisitc of western culture. It’s about the importance of Love, and what, exactly, Love can do for you.

Ahh, Home
Let me come Home
Home is wherever I’m with you

The chorus is really sweet, right? The melody is also very fun and folksy. It seems to simplify the idea of home into something we sing about in a few lines. And those few lines are really fun to sing. There is even whistling! We, as part of western culture, LOVE THIS.  These words touch upon what I just explained in the above about my dream and Frans and the Amsterdam canal. And some of this is true: Where Frans goes, I will go. I’ve made a promise. And where I will go, Frans goes. He’s made a promise.

But as much as we LOVE THIS IDEA (me included, really!) there is something in the rest of the lyrics that I just can’t jive with.

The song seems to make two conclusions. Conclusion #1: The right  person can and will make us utterly and irreversably happy. Period. We won’t need anything else.

Man, oh man, you’re my best friend,
I scream it to the nothingness
There ain’t nothin’ that I need

Conclusion #2: My relationship with that person depends on the experiences we have together. The wilder, the better. The more alive I feel, the more ‘right’ the relationship.

We laugh until we think we’ll die,
barefoot on a summer night
Nothin’ new is sweeter than with you.

Now Erin, you may be thinking. Stop picking on these two free spirits. Let the song be just a sweet, simple song about two crazy lovers.

Sometimes I enjoy listening to music just for fun’s sake. Somtimes I even sing along. But I can’t get away from the nagging feeling that these ideas in this paticular song are VERY popular in our culture and that there is a very GOOD reason why. Let me consider this: maybe this song is a symbol of the spirit of this age.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4306i99LMXo

So, what do you think…

Why is our culture so in love with these two conclusions?

What does that say about the western perception of ‘Home’?

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6 thoughts on “Home is Wherever I’m with You

  1. I think these two ideas express the euphoric feeling of “first love”. It is wild and wonderful and lasts for a season. So when this feeling fades, so do many relationships that are not built on a stronger foundation of covenant commitment–also termed “agape love”. Agape loves keeps giving with or without that intoxicating connection. Please don’t misunderstand that initial intimacy of heart isn’t important. It is! It’s the pretty wrapping paper on the present.

    • Cheryl, I think you’re right. And I also think we live in a culture that may confuse ‘real love’ with ‘first love.’ So therefore I see a lot of anxious people trying to hold onto those ‘first love’ feelings…or when those first love feelings go, they say goodbye to that relationship thinking mistakenly that one day ‘real love’ will find them. I like your metaphor of agape love being the true gift, but incomplete without the pretty wrapping of chemistry and intimacy.

  2. Hi Erin – it’s Florida Jan here! I wonder if my “rotting vegetation”comment will lure more Dutch tourists to Florida! How lovely to live next to a canal (hope you don’t sleepwalk). Your comments about the song are interesting. I think each culture has its own biases about relationships. What this song and many other songs, movies, TV shows in the US promote is an idea that if you find the “right one” you will always be happy. It leaves out the tougher stuff of love — of sticking it out together when things are rough, when you don’t feel happy or understood, when, maybe, you don’t feel the rip-roaring loving feeling! It sells a cheap sort of love; a disposable kind where when you no longer feel that happy feeling you can toss the relationship aside. And yet, I’m not sure that’s an exclusively American problem. It reminds me of an art term “chiaroscuro”. Rembrandt was famous for this technique of using shadow to illuminate the light of the subject in his paintings. The shadow was just as important as the light because it caused you focus on what Rembrandt wanted you to see. I think in the same way, the shadow, or the tougher, less happy times in our lives, can be used by God to bring out the beauty of the relationship, of the type of love that says I’m sticking it out with you! So, those are my thoughts! So, go see a Rembrandt in a Dutch museum and enjoy the art for me! I’m envious!! Keep writing – I’m enjoying your blog. Make sure you post some pictures of fall along the canal – I can only imagine how beautiful it will be!

    • Jan, I should have you be a guest blogger sometime! Yes, I think most Dutch people are longing for that ‘rotting vegetation’ smell in their lives. And I want to explore this chiaroscuro analogy more…how hopeful that “the shadow, or the tougher, less happy times in our lives can be used by God to bring out the beauty of the relationship!” A very wise and good reminder for all of us.

      Fall pictures coming soon!

    • Patricia, thanks for reading about my life here and for the well-wishes. Yes, life in another country/culture is an adjustment, as is marriage, but yes, Frans and I are finding a lot of joy in beginning life together. I think of you often as well, and love both your article posts and your Manny posts on facebook. He’s quite a guy! I will always think of my pockets in a different way now. 🙂

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