I think it was the author Thomas Wolfe who said, “You can’t go home again,” implying that you can’t relive the past. I had a perfect example of that recently on a friends and family visit to my double hometowns. How can I have two hometowns? My family left my birthplace when I was quite young, six I think, and moved to the city where I grew up, or tried.
My birthplace was a small town nestled in the foothills of an eastern mountain range. At least that’s what the tourist information says. My growing up town was an industrial hub in what is now known as the “Rust Belt.” I still have my two best friends from grades one through 12 and early adulthood living and loyal to me, although I deserted them for 50 some years. This is unusual because all of the other guys I ran around with have passed away; somehow we’ve managed to survive.
The neighborhood that I lived in was not in the high rent district to begin with, and is now pretty scruffy. The streets, which I once thought were wide avenues, are now narrow urban lanes with hardly enough room for cars to pass through. I tried to take the children, who accompanied me, down memory lane on the route I walked to elementary school for eight years, but couldn’t because they’ve made streets one way out of necessity. The buildings of the school that I remember are gone, even the “new” building, replaced by some modern, low affairs without creaky metal fire escapes. I’m sure it’s now referred to as a “campus.”
The blue collar high school building is still there but is now a private religious school. (I’ll bet they’re glad that walls can’t talk.) Fortunately it still has that three-story brick 1920’s school look that brought back memories.
An evening get-together with my friends and their spouses, whom I knew back then too, brought out some hilarious stories from those early days. Although they sometimes weren’t so funny then.
The birthplace visit was physically much the same. The stately family home was now a much smaller place in a not so nice neighborhood. A cousin and I shared some information we had gleaned from various genealogy sources about our Irish immigrant ancestors. There were some surprises for both of us. I found that I was probably the last surviving male in that side of the family, a position that means very little these days.
The main lesson I learned here is: you really can’t go back and it’s better to keep the images you have in your memory than to try to relive them. Also, it’s good to be home!
I did walk one mile in the Team Vogel vs. Cancer walk last Saturday and got soaking wet. I wouldn’t have gotten so wet but I’m so slow that the rain caught up to me as I walked about the last ¼ mile; none of the other one-mile walkers got wet. I finished last to keep my record clean.
July is here; enjoy it; get outside. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org .