|English: Olympus 4.0 Megapixel 3x zoom Digital Camera. Taken in 2002 in Cocke County, Tennessee. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
Thomas Wolfe is famously attributed to the saying "You can't go home again" which was taken from a posthumous novel of that name. Most often the saying is more in reference to the fact that you can't recapture the place and circumstances of your memories. We can fondly remember, but usually we are disappointed and disillusioned when we visit home hoping to find things like they once were.
The fact is that things change--people, places, and all that our memories embrace. Those things might be there in one manner of speaking, but rarely can we completely recapture the old feelings or experience the same sensations like they once were way back when.
It's been 23 years since that last time I lived in East Tennessee and that was for only a few years having spent a previous 13 years on the road with a traveling show. When I left my parents' home in 1975 for a life of travel it was not so much a severing ties as it was a beginning of new chapters in my life. It's a decision that I'm glad I made, but my leaving created a gulf in the familiar relationships I had enjoyed during the years previous to that departure.
As time passed, my old friends established newer relationships with people I did not know. Some of those friends went on to get married and start families. Others moved away like I did while a few passed from this life. Over time even the face and spirit of my home town changed as more people from other places moved into the area, old landmarks disappeared, and newer places were built in their places. Highways were improved and bypasses were built. The small town that I had once known took on a greater urban feel. Where once I could be out and about and almost have a guarantee of running into someone I knew, now I might be out all day all about town and never see an old familiar face.
Change is to be expected over time and probably a place would not be economically healthy if that change didn't occur. Geographically my old Tennessee stomping grounds still exists on the map, but for someone who grew up there it is barely recognizable in many ways.
Friends grow older and gain new responsibilities with careers, lives, and families. I don't feel quite as comfortable just dropping in on many of them for fear of intruding or interfering with their busy schedules. There are still a handful with whom I maintain fairly regular contact, but rarely do I actually see them. The old Tennessee stomping grounds holds a fond place in my memories. However, these days when I visit East Tennessee in some ways I almost feel like just another one of the many tourists who pass through there each year.
I would imagine that if I still lived there I might feel a lot different about the old homeland. But I don't live there anymore. And I don't know if I ever will again. Not that I wouldn't want to. It's just that things change and sometimes going back home can never recapture the memories of what once was.
Are there places from your past that you've gone back to and they just felt different to you? Do you currently live in a place where you grew up or that you came back to after an extended time away? How do you feel about the Thomas Wolfe observation that "you can't go home again"?