Screens feel unavoidable these days. Sure, there are the walks and the socially distanced conversations. But the laundry, cooking, cleaning, and care taking feel like an endless parenting treadmill that just hit the incline button. And so, for better or worse, our rest from this weary world is happening on screens. Lately, we have watched a few movies a week together. And since I cannot handle another orphaned Disney princess, my husband and I have started to call the shots. Last night, it struck me that every single movie we have chosen was ultimately about home.

First there was Hook. It is impossible for me to watch anything with Robin Williams in it without sobbing. But Hook is just breathtaking. Early in the movie we learn that Peter Pan, as portrayed by Williams, has forgotten his childhood identity. He has turned into an frustrated, overly productive, yelling-prone Dad. In other words, he is me. In one scene he bursts into the old childhood nursery where he first found Wendy, sees the murals of their adventures on the wall, and strikes that undeniable Pan Pose with his hands bravely on hips. And then his wife yells that he has an urgent phone call and his shoulders slump and he is thrust back into the “reality” of his life.

But his character arc speaks remarkably to the kind of adulthood many working parents find ourselves in. He learns that his reality was never his job or any of the idols that he had managed to prop up. It was his family and playfulness and home. Work gave Peter awards that gather dust; his family gave him love. In this moment when my work becomes my home becomes my work, I needed that clarifying word.

Back to the Future was a bit of risk with a 9 and 6 year old. There is that bit where Marty McFly makes out with his mother. But just yell out “It’s fine!” and keep watching. Because this movie defines home in such a long-ago way. It is impossible for me to watch this movie and not think of what my own parents were like as teenagers. And to not think of the wonderful and impossible things that shaped them into the people that defined home for me. The DeLorean Time Machine truly becomes a vehicle for grace. Instead of the lame authority-figures he thought they were, Marty learns that his parents were passionate, romance-driven teenagers, much like he is in that very moment.

And for all of us stuck at home with our children and our past laments in future tense, who couldn’t use some of that vulnerable mercy?

Admittedly, I have a very strange early memory of The Wizard of Oz. When I was in elementary school our elderly neighbor (and one of my absolute best friends), Miss Sue insisted on taking me to see it at a local theater. Even at 75 years old, she was very nervous to see the film. It had terrified her as a girl. We managed to sneak in our microwave popcorn and cans of grape juice into the theater in her gold lamé purse. And after the movie was over she made me wait by her car while she opened up the trunk and let a squirrel out of the cage into the parking lot. It had been terrorizing her garden and she wanted to teach it a lesson. She really was the tin man, the lion, the scarecrow, and the fallen wizard all in one person.

I loved showing the movie to our children. It is so beautiful, so ahead of its time, and completely about the love of home. Calling out “there’s no place like home,” over a place that feels so different from the known world feels like the moment we find ourselves in. Dorothy longs for the safety of home and wakes up to find that her beloved traveling companions were always there with her. She was never as far from normalcy as she felt. And my kids got to see that beautiful narrative unfold without being traumatized by an overheated squirrel. Which is all of the good mom affirmation I need right now. Lower. The. Bar.

You cannot watch movies about home without watching E.T. It was the first movie I “saw” in the theatre. My mother recalls being 42 weeks pregnant with me and when she hauled herself into a theater to see what I consider to be the most perfect movie ever made. I hope that when I am a dying old woman lying in a bed that my children will tell the priest to come over in the evening for last rights. Because I will be busy watching E.T. from 3-5pm. It is such a vision of healing and mercy in the midst of total chaos.

I never really noticed the mother until I got older. There she is, careening towards divorce, managing three children, and sobbing when she hopes that none of them will notice. And then something alien, something entirely outside of them breaks through to avert disaster. E.T. offers companionship and healing. But he does so much more than that. His longing to “phone home” and return reminds them of how much home is belonging. Even when the home is flawed and even when some people have opted out of being a part of it. Dysfunctional families (so your family) will certainly be reflected back to you on the screen.

Maybe this is a wonderful moment to teach our children (and ourselves) about home—with a screen, and without some heavy moral edict or a lofty verse. Perhaps you are the work-addicted Peter Pan and you find your identity shaken by hours of zoom meetings you feel compelled to call important. Or maybe the parenting voices in your head are all encompassing and you find yourself like Marty McFly—standing with one foot in what could have been and gazing into the heart of what is, bracing your feet on the promise of grace. And don’t we all need the compassionate alien to come from outside reminding us that home and family and belonging are really all there is?

What if this were a moment when we remembered that we are imperfectly bound to each other in love? And who doesn’t need a break from this homesick world?