Days after a wonderful visit with a good friend who lives in Maryland and was here seeing family, the quote about not being able to go home again popped into my mind. I googled it to see others’ thoughts, and their responses are divided. The actual saying, “You Can’t Go Home Again” is a book title from Thomas Wolfe, an American novelist of the early 20th century. Believing you can always go home, but with limitations, I’ve given it more thought than perhaps even Mr. Wolfe.
Springtime often makes me melancholy, especially when the weather confirms it’s spring. That took considerable time this year. With all its promises, beauty, and sometimes failures, spring strikes emotions inside me I’ve either forgotten or never knew I had. So that possibility of home again resurrects long ago memories from childhood and adolescence.
Taken literally, I can’t go back home as the only house I lived in growing up was torn down years ago. I’m not sure what’s more difficult, when the house no longer exists, or when buildings are still there, but are re-purposed. That’s how it is with the grade school and high school my friend and I graduated from, and our church. The buildings are still standing, but they serve other needs and don’t feel like “home.”
Through good fortune, I’m blessed to enjoy a friendship that started in third grade. After high school, my friend left the area for college, and I didn’t. For some reason, after awhile that seemed to make a big difference. It was true with other friends as well, and the why was never determined. We never had a falling out, simply a falling away. But thanks to an enjoyable 25th high school reunion, and a fun time or two before that, any emotional distance we once experienced no longer matters.
We met for lunch last month and the traditional touring of familiar neighborhoods and places from our youth. Yes, everything looks smaller than we remembered, an observation not unique only to us. Even folks online debating about going home again agree things seem as if they’ve shrunk when viewed through older eyes.
Our conversation has no awkward silences, but this time, it has a pause or two as we try valiantly to recall names or streets from 50 to 60 years ago. Collectively we can piece together meaningful memories. Whenever she’s coming to Peoria, she lets me know ahead of time, and I’m beyond grateful to visit with her again. She’s a childhood friend who knows inside stories of our lives back in the day. Our shared memories create laughter, warm feelings and a sense of appreciation and gratitude to have someone who identifies with similar circumstances.
We’re both optimists, I’d say, but life is fragile, and we’ve learned personally and through others that nothing should be taken for granted. Health issues can be absent for years, and suddenly explode with permanent effects. So we silently declare our gratitude for all life has given us and fondly reminisce about our parents and loved ones no longer with us. We leave each other trusting there will be a next time. And we might easily conclude, you can go home again, but be prepared to make peace with some definite differences.