HOME IS WHERE THE HEART IS: Books, Burgers & Boys
The Impala, of course, has all the things other cars have… and a few things they don’t. But none of that stuff’s important. This is the stuff that’s important. The army man that Sam crammed in the ashtray – it’s still stuck there. The Legos that Dean shoved into the vents — to this day, heat comes on and they can hear ’em rattle. These are the things that make the car theirs — really theirs”¦ It never occurred to them that, sure, maybe they never really had a roof and four walls, but they were never, in fact, homeless.
-Eric Kripke & Eric”Giz”Gerwitz, Swan Song
It’s true that Sam and Dean have never been homeless. The Impala has always provided a base, a refuge, an object of permanence and a symbol of the love they shared. The Impala, after all, helped end the Apocalypse.
But here’s the thing”¦ Rooms with a view it’s got, but it’s really hard to hang pictures in a car. And unless you’re an expert in manifold cooking (and there is a cookbook for those who are!), the kitchen in the Impala leaves a lot to be desired.
Although Sam and Dean have lived mainly on the road, and stayed in motel with creepy stains and funky smells, they have had a few places with four walls and a roof. Bobby’s house was never their home, but it was clear they were comfortable there. After it was destroyed, they moved on to Rufus’s cabin. They could hide out there, catch their breath, and make some plans. But I never got the sense they were totally at ease. It was just a place, not their place.
Then Henry Winchester introduced them to their legacy as Men of Letters. That legacy includes the Batcave. From the first few hours of their time there, it was clear this was a place they could claim as their own. You could see it in the way Sam started to vibrate at the sight of all those books. You could see it in Dean’s giddiness at the toys (for instance, the scimitar) and the water pressure!
Any real estate agent will tell you there is a mysterious, unwritten equation that transforms a house into a home. Of course, the components and variables of that equation are unique to everyone. Sometimes, it’s location, location, location. Other times, it’s a backyard for the kids, an attached garage and a granite countertop!
We all have our definition of home, but one of the best for me, came from a teenage boy I got to know when I was working with street kids. I will always remember the joy in his face, the way his eyes positively sparkled on the day he rushed over to tell me that at last, he’d got a room in a shelter. He was so excited because, as he told me, “I finally have a place for all my stuff!” That line has stuck with me for years. See, his “stuff” was what he carried from foster care to street corners in one small black garbage bag. He knew he’d come “home” when he finally found a place where he could put down that bag, just for a little while, and know it would be there waiting for him when he came back.
Years ago, in Season One, in Salvation, John Winchester put his finger on what makes his sons tick. He told them that he wanted to kill the demon that was attacking their family and friends for two main reasons”¦
John: I want Sam to go to school; I want Dean to have a home.
The Batcave is the perfect chocolate/vanilla twist ice cream cone that answers John’s wish. Sam can go to school there every day and never find a reason to be bored. It’s so obvious that Sam has found his place. He already moves around the bunker with an air of familiarity and authority. His mark is everywhere ““ card catalogues, books scattered across the table, information at his fingertips. He looks so cozy and happy in this place of letters, turned to words, turned to paragraphs, turned to knowledge.
Home is where the heart is. – Unknown
Home is where the heart is, but it’s also where we feel safe displaying that heart. Think of it”¦. Home is where we burp, fart, wear our favourite ripped T-shirt and let our bellies hang out in the ugly sweat pants that should have been retired years ago. But, on a deeper level, home is our sanctuary. You may cry at the office, and giggle at a friend’s dinner party. But home is where we truly, loudly, deeply sob over our sorrows, laugh at our delights and summon our courage for the challenges ahead.
I think that’s why the scenes of Dean in his new room pack such a gut punch.
Sam and Dean go to great lengths not to tell people what they do, until they absolutely have to. So they rarely go by their real name, they have the fake IDs (mainly FBI now) and most of the time, their guns and knives are hidden from the world, under the false bottom in the Impala’s trunk. But in the Batcave, Dean has a place where he can proudly display the tools of his trade, even if the only people who will see them are himself and his brother. He can look at those weapons each day and honour the lives they have helped to save.
(I admit I am a tad concerned about how they’ll know what needs to be taken down and brought on any given job. For instance, what if they’re out hunting something and Dean reaches for the Purgataxe and it’s not there? I’ve decided he hangs them on the wall when he’s home, and quickly gathers them all up when he & Sam have to jump into the Batmopala! It’s kind of like a firefighter jumping into his gear!)
But the scene that shows Dean has come home again is when he carefully and reverently removes Mary’s picture from his wallet and props it up on the light. “Hi Mom”. He’ll get to say that everyday if he wants. He no longer has to hide her memory, his grief about her death, or the fact of how much he still loves and misses her. HUGE!!!
It shouldn’t really be surprising that when Dean has easy access to a kitchen, that he can call his own, he starts to cook. We saw him barbecueing and making scrambled eggs with Lisa. Way back in Something Wicked he was preparing food for himself and Sam. Cooking, from scratch, has always been considered an expression of love and affection. Nourishment to help nurture.
Home is where the heart is, but it’s also where we feel safe displaying that heart. Most of the time all people see of Dean is his warrior/soldier/protector/badass heart. But in the sanctity, and secrecy of the Batcave Dean is given the chance to display his caregiver/nurturer/protector/marshmallow heart
I find it interesting that even in the short time that the brothers have had this new home, they’ve already absorbed it, internalized it and are carrying it on the road with them, in their hearts. Their speeches to each other are a testament to that.
I know that to many ears Dean’s speech sounds like a suicide note and that he’s ordering Sam to obey him. In that setting, it’s a fair interpretation.
But imagine if they were standing in Dean’s room, with the picture of Mom, and the memory-foam bed that remembers him? He feels safe and protected there. It’s a place where he can let his feelings, and vulnerabilities hang out. And he does, in a brutally truthful way.
“I’m a grunt, Sam. You’re not. You’ve always been the brains of this operation. And you told me yourself that you see a way out. You see a light at the end of this ugly-ass tunnel. I don’t. But I tell you what I do know is that I’m gonna die with a gun in my hand. Cuz that’s what I have waiting for me, and that’s all I have waiting for me. I want you to get out. I want you to have a life. Become a Men of Letters, whatever. You, with a wife and kids and grandkids, living “˜til you’re fat and bald and chugging Viagra. That is my perfect ending. And it’s the only one that I’m gonna get.”
He’s not saying he wants to die. He’s saying he’s a big brother who is proud that his younger brother has figured out what he wants from life, and he’s encouraging him to go after it. He’s nurturing Sam, telling him go after your dreams and I’ll do everything I can to support you.
It’s almost paraphrasing the conversation he had with Sam all the way back in Scarecrow.
DEAN: Sam. You were right. You gotta do your own thing. You gotta live your own life.
SAM: Are you serious?
DEAN: You’ve always known what you want. And you go after it. You stand up to Dad. And you always have. Hell, I wish I – anyway”¦ I admire that about you. I’m proud of you, Sammy.
SAM: I don’t even know what to say.
DEAN: Say you’ll take care of yourself.
SAM: I will.
Dean is also saying he knows, and takes some pride in the fact he has certain valid skills, and that he feels an obligation to utilize them. However, he’s also realistic enough to admit those skills are likely to get him killed one day.
The tragedy for Dean is that so much of this is based on how worthless he considers his own life to be. (Hmmm… There’s that perspective thing again.)
I’m not sure he’s ever gotten over his Dad and Marshall Hall (Faith) dying to save him. I think he is also still trying to atone for the torture he inflicted in Hell. I’m not sure he’ll ever completely move past those things, and I wonder if something might be lost if he did. I think he’s partly motivated and inspired by guilt (as he said, it seeps from his pores!). He did let go of some of the guilt when he duked it out with Dream!Dean in Dream A Little Dream of Me. He admitted he didn’t deserve what was happening to him.
DEAN: My father was an obsessed bastard! All that crap he dumped on me, about protecting Sam. That was his crap. He’s the one who couldn’t protect his family. He’s the one who let Mom die”¦ Who wasn’t there for Sam. I always was! He wasn’t fair! I didn’t deserve what he put on me. And I don’t deserve to go to hell!
The thing is, you can lose a lot of weight, but still keep heading to the Extra-Large rack in the clothing store.
Sam’s speech at the end of the episode also suggests he’s carrying the comfort of the Batcave with him in his heart. He too feels safe in laying bare his emotional needs, and hopes.
“I want to slam Hell shut too, OK. But I want to survive it. I want to live. And so should you. You have friends up here, family. I mean hell, you even got your own room now. You were right, OK. I see the light at the end of this tunnel. And I’m sorry you don’t. I am. But it’s there. And if you come with me, I can take you to it. You’re not a grunt, Dean. You’re a genisu. When it comes to lore, to.. You’re the best damn Hunter I have ever seen. Better than me, better than Dad. I believe in you, Dean, so please, please believe in me too.”
Sam has seen the light at the end of the tunnel, and it’s shining on that big beautiful Men of Letters library, and the potential it holds, as well as the potential of the Tablet. Sam’s gains power and confidence from research, and he’s feeling that confidence now. With all those books, there must be some information that will help them succeed at the trials.
Sam’s gentle joke about Dean’s room is his way of telling Dean he is absolutely certain he dreams of a different life too. He noticed the way the weapons were displayed on the wall. He tasted the amazing hamburger. And that’s why his statement that Dean is a genius is so crucial. Sam is helping Dean see himself through another’s eyes, and therefor see his own value and worth. (Hmmm.. There’s that perspective thing again.)
Then Sam plays his final card – the little brother hero worship. I think looking around Dean’s room reminded Sam of how deep and complex his brother really is. It brought to the surface all the love and respect he has for his big brother. It’s similar in content, and tone to what he said to Dean in Fresh Blood.
SAM: I know you!
SAM: Yeah I’ve been following you around my entire life! I mean, I’ve been looking up to you since I was four, Dean. Studying you, trying to be just like my big brother. So yeah, I know you. Better than anyone else in the entire world. And this is exactly how you act when you’re terrified. And, I mean, I can’t blame you. It’s just…
SAM: I wish you would drop the show and be my brother again. ‘Cause… just ’cause.
Brothers again. Men who each want the other not only to survive, but to thrive. And of course to come home at the end of the day. Because, home is where the heart is. And their hearts are certainly with each other.