As I ponder what “home” means to me, I keep returning to two books my children and I treasure. We read these hundreds of times during their childhood. Both are written by P. D. Eastman and contain his distinctive sparse line drawings and vivid colors.
In need of a little comfort? Grab your blanket and have these two stories read to you:
For many years now, I have engaged in questioning some of the messages underlying our children’s stories. And there are a few that trouble me within these two favorite books. In particular, they rely on prevalent assumptions that are not inherently true: that our parents look like us, that we need to stay put in the homes in which we find ourselves, that there are “typical” families that live in “typical” homes. If I were reading these books to toddlers today, I would invite them into discussions about these assumptions. When my kiddos were young, we simply delighted in the engaging language, the evocative drawings, and the journeys represented through little birds seeking family and home.
Underneath all of the beliefs that may underlie these pleasant stories, which remain vitally important to ponder, there persists for me another level of significance -- the longing we each have to belong. It is one of our strongest desires as humans, to be part of something. Some of us seek to find where we “fit” within families or other groups of people, while for many a sense of belonging stems from specific physical geographies or structures. These two classic children’s stories, when viewed in that light, stand amongst the most powerful stories of pilgrimage, which remind us that finding, creating, and inhabiting our own unique sense of home is an essential part of each human journey.