Nov 29, 2010

Can you go home again?

Thomas Wolfe wrote, "You Can't go Home Again," which was published posthumously in 1940.  It contains a warning that returning home will likely bring disappointment in two forms:  it will fall short of your expectations, and you will see that you have fallen short of others' expectations as well.

A few years ago, Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora defiantly asked "Who Says You Can't Go Home?" and their lyrics make the point that where you were raised stays with you, no matter where you go. 

More recently, Miranda Lambert's plaintive, poignant lyrics in "The House that Built Me" speaks to a longing to be grounded by our memories of home:
"You leave home, you move on, and you do the best you can.
I got lost in this old world and forgot who I am.
I thought if I could touch this place, or feel it.
The brokenness inside me might start healing.
Out here it's like I'm someone else,
I thought that maybe I could find myself..."
So I guess the answer to this question depends on whether you consider home a time or a place, and how far removed you are- not the physical distance, but the effect of time on our emotional connections.

For those who never left their hometown, this question probably makes little sense; for them, home is where and what it's always been. But for those of us who left the place where we grew up, we know the answer is complex and difficult to explain in words.  You can return, but you can't turn back the hands of time.  You can go home, but it isn't the same place. You're not the same person.

This weekend, I visited the town where I spent my early years.  I have been in the area since we moved, but I've never made a special trip on my own, until now.

My old school
We stopped by the grade school I attended from kindergarten until we moved away in the middle of my fourth grade year.  I was mentally braced for the school to seem smaller than I remembered, even though I didn't grow much taller than I was as a kid.  (No jokes, please.)  I wasn't ready to see it boarded up and dilapidated - it's a shame to see it fall into such disrepair.  A side door was broken out and we could peer inside - the big oak doors with their transom windows were intact, despite the obvious signs of vandals, drug users and homeless.

The local campground was full of migrating Canadian geese enjoying the spring-fed ponds on their annual trek. 

Our old farmhouse hadn't changed much since I last saw it, but the driveway seems much shorter than I remember it as a kid on my bike, and the lilac bushes are much bigger than they were back when. 

Late afternoon sunset in Kansas
Local eateries, the movie theater and other landmarks look much the same, but the midwest farming community is dwindling in size, and time has not been kind to it. But there is still part of me in that little town, and another part of me undoubtedly is out west, where I finished growing up.  The fact is, every place I've lived has added to me - given me something to add to my perspective on life, and to my personal character.  And I've left a bit of me behind with each move.

Happy Monday,