There’s no place like home. “Hearth and Home” is an American expression, but it’s a concept that transcends culture.
Perhaps the earliest example is the Greek goddess Hestia. Family, domesticity, and the correct ordering of the household were all concerns of Hestia. Vestia was her Roman counterpart. From Vestia comes the Latin vespers, or evening prayers. Likewise, Venus is the evening star. The modern concept of home economics and the nurturing, protecting aspects of family all fall within the domain of Vestia.
But even more, “hearth & home” is a Biblical ideal, which finds its highest expression in the husband/wife relation and the traditional family. Modernist sensibilities to the contrary, man is depicted in the Bible as “defender of the faith” and woman as “keeper at home.” Husband, wife, and children — the nuclear family — is presented in the Bible as the cornerstone of society.
But that did not detract from woman’s role as provider, which is not the exclusive domain of man. The culminating chapter in the Book of Proverbs presents woman as a successful real estate investor and agronomist. Even here, she is tied to the land. And to the home.
“She considers a field and buys it; From her earnings she plants a vineyard. She girds herself with strength, and makes her arms strong. She senses that her gain is good; Her lamp does not go out at night.”
All of this is wrapped up in the idea of “home.” That haven to which man retires for contentment and revitalization. This conjures images of wood burning stoves and families finding happiness together in the simple pleasures. We see it in countless colloquialisms and clichés:
* Home is where the heart is
* Home is where you hang your hat
* I’ll be home for Christmas
* Keep the home fires burning
* Home sweet home
* There’s no place like home
Perhaps no piece of Americana captures all of this better than the song This Old House, which topped the charts in 1954. It is one of our most popular songs of remembrance. The song was written and published by Stuart Hamblen in 1954, and was immediately picked up by Rosemary Clooney who made it a #1 hit in both America and Britain that year. Shakin Stevens also did a rendition in England.
Stuart Hamblen was a radio personality of the 1920’s who sang and acted with stars like Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, and John Wayne. The song was born in an old house that Hamblen and a friend stumbled across on a hunting trip. Inside they were shocked to discover the dead body of the homeowner. In a moment of inspiration Hamblen scribbled the song on his brown paper lunch bag. The melody came to him later in the week.
The words are an analogy of the aging process and impending death, but the cadence is quick and the tone lively and optimistic. The body is breaking down, but the soul is vibrant, alive, and happy in the hope of imminent release to heaven.
It was an expression of Hamblen’s evangelical faith, found in the words of Christ at John 11: 23-26: Jesus said to her:
“Your brother shall rise again.” Martha said to Him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me shall live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?”