This particular long trip to San Diego has been a tour of nostalgia, even more than our previous vacations. I went to a Switchfoot concert at the Del Mar Fair with my mom and sister – a sentence that could have been written ten years ago. We visited Balboa Park with Christopher to see the Model Railroad Museum, my brother’s favorite as a tot. It’s made me miss San Diego not only as the place where my family lives, but San Diego itself.
I got really into Wendell Berry’s idea of place and local culture at the end of college, but I thought it didn’t apply to southern California’s suburbia and box stores. I’m realizing more and more how mistaken I was about at least one aspect of Berry’s Port William-esque vision. Sure, North County San Diego is full of chain stores and backyards instead of local businesses and front porches. It will never be an agrarian paradise.
But that’s okay.
Nowhere else has Moonlight Beach or Rudy’s Taco Shop or a preponderance of desert-scapes in front yards. Or “I played softball there” or “didn’t we go there with so-and-so when we were little?” My family has its own village, its own place.
I volunteered at KidsGames (a type of VBS) last week with my mom and my sister at the church where I grew up and it is always remarkable just how many people I can count as formative characters in my life in a single room of green-shirted volunteers. I’m seeing all this through new eyes with Christopher. I was in the nursery and Solana Beach Presbyterian Church and now there’s a new building, but he also spent a week in the nursery where one of my friends from youth group of yesteryear was volunteering. We went to Moonlight Beach on Monday with one of my childhood friends. It brought back memories of going with him and other church kids to that very beach, but now we were there with my son.
It’s easier to see a legacy of faithfulness in one place. While it’s true “the Son of Man has no place to rest his head,” this displacement is a difficult cross to bear and not a reflection of the peace and rest we will find one day in the house of God. It’s hard to start over, to feel less safe and not known. It makes the story of Ruth (featured during KidsGames) all the more real to me.
“Your people shall be my people.”
It’s a risk, following Naomi, leaving her people, feeling displaced. I don’t think I’ve reached the point where I can boldly repeat those words without the asterisk of “but we’ll be back, right?”. But I am not left homeless. We make our own home with gleanings from the Lord’s table. Glimpses of peace and rest and belonging can be found even in our academia-induced displacement.
“I mean,’ he said with increasing vehemence, `that if there be a house for me in heaven it will either have a green lamp-post and a hedge, or something quite as positive and personal as a green lamp-post and a hedge. I mean that God bade me love one spot and serve it, and do all things however wild in praise of it, so that this one spot might be a witness against all the infinities and the sophistries, that Paradise is somewhere and not anywhere, is something and not anything. And I would not be so very much surprised if the house in heaven had a real green lamp-post after all.” – G.K. Chesterton