I have to admit I’ve never read Thomas Wolfe’s book “You Can’t Go Home Again”. So I can’t say for sure what he was talking about when he titled his book. I’m guessing a whole lot of people today, have never read his book, as it was originally published in 1940. Yet, the title still gets bandied about quite a bit.
Sure, depending on our age, we may have known for quite some time that that title was a true statement. You do however get to a point in your life where you really realize how true that statement is. I went “home” to the state I was raised in this past week to visit family. While I was there my husband and I took an afternoon to drive through the town I grew up in and to visit some old landmarks.
We drove by both of my grandmother’s old house’s, the place where my house used to be, old schools and hangouts and friend’s houses. It had been a while since I’d been to some of those places and none of them looked quite the way they did when I was growing up. Well, needless to say of course they didn’t. New people move in, they paint, they change things. Roads change, tree’s grow, and life happens. We aren’t the same person we used to be so why would we assume everything else would be stay the same?
That day we did end up at the cemetery. It’s a peaceful place on a hill. Quiet and well kept. I have so many memories there. Not just of funerals, but also of many Memorial Day parades and ceremony’s that I had taken part in over the years. And memories of planting flowers on the graves with my mom and sometimes my grandmother. I hadn’t been up there in several years. I’m not one of those people who goes to visit graves and thinks my loved ones are actually in that place.
We drove to my parent’s graves, also to my grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins graves. And with some help from my brother, we also found some great, great grandparents graves. Standing there looking over all the graves it was like a parade of memories from the past. Seeing the stones of family friends long gone, or the parents of some of my classmate’s and their families. Seeing the names of many people I hadn’t thought of in years. Some, that I hadn’t even realized had died. I have to say it felt very peaceful there that afternoon.
I have been back to that town many times over the last sixteen years since I moved away to live in other states. I’m not sure why this particular visit was so different.
Recently I had such a vivid dream about my Dad’s Mom. She’s been gone for forty years now. In my dream, she was still alive and she came to my door. I just wept, as I hadn’t know where she was or that she was alive. I think that dream was part of what prompted me to go back and see some of those places during my visit.
Maybe what made this time hard was just the sense of time having passed so quickly, and seeing so many of life’s changes. Maybe part of it is that when we don’t see people for a while, we tend to remember the way they looked when we last saw them, then we see them again we realize they have aged right along with us. It can be good to go back and see places and people as long as we realize we can never go back to the way things were.
Our last day there as we were heading out of town, we stopped at a Chinese restaurant where we used to meet my Mom and one of my cousins when we would come to visit. We had so many happy memories there of love and lots of laughter.
As we were sitting there in that restaurant we realized a couple of things. One was that the food was not as we remembered it. That, we could have overlooked. The most important thing we realized was that even though we were eating in a favorite old haunt, it felt sad and not the same. We so missed those loved ones that we used to share a meal with, who were no longer with us. They were a big part of what made the place special. Without the people we had shared our meals with, it was just another Chinese Restaurant in small town America.
We can’t go home again because there’s no way we can go back and relive those times in our memories. Often, the people or places we remember may have changed or gone, and all that we have left is our memories. I’m sure that you, like me, often look back at your memories through rose colored glasses. No two of us would remember things in exactly the same way. We sometimes selectively remember things the way we would like to remember them.
The Bible says in Isaiah 43:18-19 ““Do not remember the former things, Nor consider the things of old. Behold, I will do a new thing, Now it shall spring forth;
Shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the wilderness And rivers in the desert.”
Always good advice of course. Perhaps we all know people who at some point in their lives become fixated with living in the past or they just can’t let go of things that have happened. Hopefully, we know that if we want to move forward in the things of God, we may have to let go of those things we are holding onto that might be the very things holding us back.
I do think it’s okay to go back and re-visit the past some times. Just as long as we are only visiting, and not letting our past keep us from our future. I think it can be good to go back and remember, to take stock of who we were back then and how we got to where we are now. Perhaps we have something we need to learn from the past. Then we can take from it that lesson we learn and look ahead to what’s in store for us. We may not be able to go home again, but we can make a new home for the memories we’re making now.