“Pilgrim on earth, thy home is heaven.
Stranger, thou art the guest of God.”
“Look, Wally!” I whispered when I saw these words in the hymnal rack at the little Christian Science church we attended. El Centro, they told us, was not an ideal place to call home in the summer time. Heat, insects, typical of a desert home, but not quite an oasis. Still in the Marine Corps you didn’t get a choice. Orders were orders, and with World War II still raging we were fortunate to be stateside. Wally had been in the South Pacific, a fighter pilot for the better part of the war, and was home with only some shards of shrapnel in one shoulder from a dog fight with a Zero. Along with a host of memories.
We’d been married in the Flyers’ Chapel at The Mission Inn in Riverside and after a honeymoon in Laguna Beach on his leave of absence we drove to El Centro. Awaiting us there was a room in a small hotel Wally had had the foresight to arrange for when first he got his orders. The little city was not prepared for the influx of service men and women. Some were even living in reconverted chicken coops! We felt fortunate to have the room, but we wanted a real home and right there in the pew rack we saw those words welcoming us. That little church felt like a doorway to our first home.
And it was. Back at the hotel we picked up the local paper and there was our ad: “Marine captain and wife desire to rent an apartment or small house. No children or pets. Quiet habits. Will be happy to stay while owners are on vacation.” Since there was no telephone in our room we opted to sit in the lobby for a little while before going out to lunch. Someone might just be picking up the paper now.
As if on cue the phone at the desk rang and lo and behold, it was for us! A couple and their young son were getting ready to go to the mountains for a cool summer vacation. Their home was small but lovely, immaculate, and complete in every way. It even had a baby grand piano!
The next home turned out to be a Quonset hut in the Mojave desert on the Marine base. So different. Government issued furnishings, plain, odd, but our very own when we bought curtains and rag rugs and took out our few wedding gifts.
If you want to read about all the other places I’ve called home you might find a stray copy of the book I wrote called “Claudia’s Home, Way Stations Along Her Spiritual Path.” It’s an autobiographical novel of my life up to the time of my second marriage. There have been any number more homes since.
One common thread has connected all the places I’ve called home. It is those simple words at the beginning of this blog. Heaven is our spiritual and permanent dwelling place and it’s inside us. To know it, appreciate it, and love it is to see it manifested outwardly in practical timbers, stucco, brick, glass and stone. Now I’m on my way to my thirty-eighth (about) home.
I’ve loved them all, these places that bear memories sweet and sad. They’ve been small and large and in-between but they have one precious quality in common, they are temporal expressions of a heavenly Home where I and all we humans began, are now, and will ever be.
Here at The Willows I’m finding this out again.