One of the things about having moved around the world and the UK in the last 35 years is the need to have a home place where all is familiar, where the family can gather and where memories and artefacts that trigger those memories are kept. For me, this has been my Dad’s house, which he bought in late 1978 at a location which at the time was the highest house (in elevation terms) in the town of Brecon. The tree surgeon recently cut down one of the more straggly pines that Dad planted in 1979, with 38 growth rings clearly to be seen. The house has been a home from home for both my sister and I, and Dad has lived there continually, improving the place, planting a garden, many trees and an orchard, and levelling bits of the slope out to use for sitting and relaxation. It has the most amazing views, and is the most annoying lawn I have ever had to mow.
Most importantly, besides being a home, it has provided, over thirty years, the centre for our wider family to gather each year on the first Sunday in August in a celebration of one another, entitled The Cousins’ Curry. This is one of the great cultural events of my lifetime and is the key mechanism of keeping our family together, scattered as we are across England and Wales. This is a time of tremendous joy and excitement, of great curries made by various experts in the family (the concept of a curry lunch is rooted in Dad’s military culture), and a chance to help and support and catch up, and update the (by now) extremely complex family tree. My grandfather, John Stanley Humphreys, was one of 9 siblings, and cousins therefore abound – not to mention the enormous family he married into.
I have no idea how long this property will be in our family. I would like to think forever, because it is so beautiful, especially on days like last weekend when the sun was warm and the leaves in early leaf. Dad will be 94 this November, and as content in his home as anyone I have met. But, in the spirit of homesickness of my last post, it is more that it is our one remaining effective link to Brecon, a town I have lived in for nearly ten years of my life.
For years I have swallowed the lie that upward mobility was good, that getting more money, travelling the world and not being rooted in one place, was a desirable outcome of a generalist education. But it is a lie. Being rooted to one place, giving yourself to it, developing it and building a life there – this is of great value too, and our education of the young should somehow take notice of this and teach it as a desirable thing that you give back to the community that raised you. Living in a military family meant that rootedness was never part of our experience, but it something I have begun to appreicate in those who have experienced it.
At root, though, and in the light that of the fact that all these places are included for us in an eternal inheritance that can never fade, spoil or perish, I find myself just grateful for all the places that God has graciously allowed us to live, root and build friendships in.