Thursday, December 24, 2009

Sibling Assignment #112: Lassie, Dorothy, Odysseus, Leontes, and On and On: There's No Place Like Home

Silver Valley Girl gave us this sibling assignment.

Think back to a movie you remember watching at our house in Kellogg, name the movie, what it was about, and what makes you remember watching it at the house.

Go here and read InlandEmpireGirl's sweet memories about Mary Martin starring in "Peter Pan" and this link will magically transport you to Silver Valley Girl's going back to watching "The Greatest Show on Earth" with our father.


For nearly thirty years, I've had a healthy obsession in my work as a literature instructor with the concept of "home".

It's a common structure in storytelling: a character leaves home or is exiled or goes on an adventure and the story reaches its climax with a homecoming.

But, it's more than just a structure. The return home is a return to belonging, peace, vitality, love, safety, security, union, well-being, balance, and a host of other life-giving (as opposed to life-denying) and enduring elements of the human experience.

Odysseus returns home to Penelope. Leontes experiences his wife, whom he thought was long dead, come to life at the end of Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale. He resurrection is a homecoming. Gilgamesh returns home. So does Rama.

This return home is, in my view of things, the heart of comedy, understood in the classic sense, not the goofball sense.

It's why Dante called his story of ultimate ascension to heaven, Commedia (Boccaccio later added the word Divina). The story is a comedy, free of gags and crudeness, but ripe with the joy of returning home to be with the great Originator, the great Creator, with God.

I've thought a lot about why I feel this deep affinity with stories about leaving home and returning and with the emotional satisfaction the joy of these stories brings me.

I think it goes back to one movie, "The Wizard of Oz" and one television series, "Lassie".

I can't imagine I need to say much about "The Wizard of Oz". It's a classic story of the loss of home and returning again.

As a kid, I didn't have any intellectual understanding of Dorothy's leaving home and returning, but it sure spiked me emotionally. I had no words, as a child, for Dorothy's famous line, "There's no place like home", but watching "The Wizard of Oz" at 14 E. Portland with the heat from our oil stove warming the living room and being safe from flying monkeys and a wicked witch, I experienced the meaning of home in profound emotional and spiritual ways.

The idea of home hit me the hardest, though, when the television show, "Lassie" had what I remember was a four episode series about Lassie getting lost and being away from Timmy, of being away from her home.

Lassie had a great adventure, but Timmy agonized over being separated from Lassie. He held out hope, he had faith, he did everything he could to will Lassie back home again.

Finally, Timmy gave up.

He went to the bottom of a hillock on the family farm and began digging a deep hole. To say good-bye to Lassie, he decided to bury Lassie's toys.

I was about five or six years old. I had never felt such agony. I could hardly bear to watch Timmy digging this grave.

Then (as I remember), just as Timmy was ready to toss the toys in the ground, he heard Lassie's bark. He looked up. Lassie came bounding over the hill. The "Lassie" theme music swelled.

Lassie was home again.

I bawled.

I was overwhelmed with joy.

Lassie was home.

Dorothy's and Lassie's homecomings shaped my emotional, and, later, intellectual, response to much of my favorite literature and to many of my favorite movies.

It's really what kellogg bloggin' is all about.

It's about where I come from, the feelings and perspectives that were born inside me in Kellogg, and my unending desire to return home again.

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