|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"?
I left in 1989 and returned in 2011 but I did visit over the years and saw the many changes to my hometown and region. I think the time I most felt 'you can't go home again' was when I went back to San Francisco in 2008 for a wedding, after 9 years away. My old neighbhourhood was very, very run down and had changed a lot. That was sad to me. I am afraid I would find the same thing if I were to go back to Washington any time soon.ReplyDelete
On trips to my old hometown, it was nothing like it used to be. It too had grown but much of what I didn't like (the small-town-ness)had stayed the same. I cut my ties long ago, only the people of family that are still there keep me tethered to the place. Only a few remain as time goes on.ReplyDelete
I did take hubs and family to see some of the places they had heard me talk about. It adds another layer to their understanding of their parents' backgrounds.
When I was younger, I wanted desperately to live somewhere else, but now I appreciate where I live a lot more. Some of that may be the understanding that I would be the same person no matter where I went. I also feel strongly that if your town doesn't have what you want in it, you should start it up yourself—whether that's a theater company, a concert series, a knitting club, or whatever.ReplyDelete
That said, I love to get away sometimes.
I left the Philadelphia area in 1993, and by the end of the decade it had changed so much it didn't feel like the city I'd left.ReplyDelete
Now that my parents are gone, I do not think I'd live there again.
I will always think of it as home, though.
I'm fortunate that I only live about an hour from where I grew up, but I don't get back to visit as often as I'd like. Over the years the area has grown so much that I'm amazed that I lived there at one time. Even the schools I attended have grown so much in size that I hardly recognize them.ReplyDelete
You can't go home again. I believe it.ReplyDelete
I still dream sometimes of the house I grew up in, my old room, etc. BUT I sometimes visit that place and nothing is the same. The house isn't ours (and hasn't been for a very long time). It doesn't look the same, my old street doesn't feel the same, and most of the people I loved best no longer live in that town. But it will always be a living thing in my memory.
JoJo--A lot can certainly change after 9 years. I guess it would be kind of weird if we didn't see change.ReplyDelete
DG-- I used to take my wife and kids to see where I used to live in San Diego. They make fun of me for it, but I think it might mean something to my kids someday if not now.
Kelly -- So true about it being who you are and not where you are. A person can complain about their community or do something to make it better. The latter is the best choice.
Larry-- It's important to have a place to call "home".
Susanne-- Schools are an interesting measurement of change. I've visited several of the places where I went to school. In some the changes are significant, while at others there has been little change.
Robin-- That "living thing" is the core of memoirs.
Over the years I've moved so much, I'm not really sure where home is. I guess for me it's where ever I am at the moment.ReplyDelete
I have a lot of fond memories of growing up, but so many of them are in places where we vacationed or visited family, not necessarily where I lived, that I don't think or worry much about going home. Anyway, my parents are gone, no siblings, only a few cousins left in the old hometown. After Daddy died and I sold the house that I grew up in, I never went back, even the few times I visited the city, I didn't drive down the street where I lived. Better to have fond memories than see what someone else had done to the place. I guess in the end home is where my heart is and that changes periodically.
FAE-- I think what you've said pretty well fits along my line of thinking. I've got family all over so right now my home is the place where I'm paying the bills.ReplyDelete