I looked around, noting the familiar and seeing how the hands of time and other people had changed the only home I knew until the day I got married. The house was sold a few years after my mother's death; it had fallen into the hands of interlopers, intruders. A catering business had invaded the space where my mother once baked cornbread and cooked Thanksgiving dinners.
I noted the "For Sale" near the mailbox, an indication the catering business had gone bust or moved on. Since the property is now commercial, much of the front yard is covered with asphalt. (Paved paradise, put up a parking lot.) The backyard is bereft of the trees I once climbed in. But some landmarks of my youth remain. The big tree in the front yard still stands tall, no longer flocked by the irises my mother planted there but still shading the house where no one lives.
I grabbed my umbrella and stepped from the car to look around. I walked to the side of the house and looked up at my old bedroom window. That window was my view to the world as I listened to American Top 40 countdowns. That room was my refuge as I scribed in my diary and cried crocodile tears over a long list of boys. It all looked the same ... but somehow different.
As I stood there feeling a bit heartsick, I reminded myself it's not the place that's important but what happened there. Long after this house is torn down, the memories I made here will still live on. Mom is no longer on this Earth, but the lessons she taught me are no less valuable. And when I'm gone, whatever I've done with those lessons will live on through me.
Dodging raindrops, I got back into the car. As I prepared to drive away, I wondered: Can you go home again? With all due respect to Thomas Wolfe, I say you can. When you carry home in your heart, it's always with you. My memories are as deeply rooted as the tree that still stands sentinel in the front yard. No one can take those memories away from me.
Someone recently reminded me that living in the past makes you depressed, living in the future makes you anxious, and living in the present puts you at peace. Yes, you can go home again — the key is you can't stay there. While you may revisit that place from time to time, whether literally or figuratively, you must gather up your life lessons and keep moving forward.
Do you have strong ties to your childhood home? How does visiting that place make you feel? Please share your thoughts in the Comments below.