Sunday, February 22, 2009

You Can't Go Home Again

You Can't Go Home Again. That's what they say. I never fully understood that phrase. You could always go home. If nothing else, you could always drive by your old home and remember the good times. And I often did that when I found myself back in my hometown.

The one place that was sacred to me in that whole town was the home of my grandparents, where we learned just about everything in life that we needed to know. I learned to hem my pants in that house, and it was in the kitchen that I learned to bake. It was where I learned how to control my temper and behave in a civilized manner. I learned about life and death there - watching with fascination as the guppy had babies, and in sadness when realizing the dog's bed was now empty...

The sight of that big Victorian-style house sitting on the corner lot, with it's white porch surrounded by the brilliant colors of roses, geraniums and zinnias, is a scene that will be etched in my mind forever, and it will still lower my blood pressure considerably just thinking about it. That house was more than just happy memories at Grandma's - it was a haven from the rest of the world, a little speck of normalcy in a life that was anything but normal. Turning onto their street and seeing the house sitting there like a beautiful fortress brings back just as many comforting feelings as it does tender memories.

The old folks had been gone a long time, but still I made it a habit to drive by on my rare trips back home. As I'd turned the corner, the eyes of my soul would see it all over again, and it felt good.

I don't know what happened. Perhaps I'd finally started seeing the old place with my eyes instead of with my heart. As I came around the corner, I saw a house much, much smaller sitting on an overgrown lot. The front steps, which we used to love to sit on, were sagging, and the paint was chipping off. I barely recognized it.

I spent the rest of the day driving around town, looking for something, but not really knowing what. I went to the park where we used to have family picnics. Everyone was gone now - just an empty pavilion remained. I drove out to the old family farm, to the site of the old grocery store, to the cemetery, past all of our old houses. Everyone and everything was gone. At some point, you truly can't go home again, no matter how long you drive.

It was several weeks later, back in the comfort of my current home with my family, working on a family history project, when my thoughts took me back again, walking through the park-like yard, holding onto my grandmother's hand while she taught me about flowers. And it was then I realized that while you can't go back home again, home can indeed come back to you.


  1. I was referred to your blog and loved it, great writing and very interesting stories so far. Thanks for signing on as a follower to my blog-"Those Old Memories". I have subscribed to yours and will be a regular reader. Good Luck!--Cheri H. (Sweetwater Sherry)

  2. This is a wonderful post about your grandmother's home and all you learned there, Karen. Bitter sweet, those old places, and yet knowing they're only there in our memories.

  3. Thanks, Nancy. Family history as a whole is kind of bittersweet, isn't it?