Friday, December 19, 2014

You Can't Go Home Again

"You can't go back home to your family, back home to your childhood ... back home to a young man's dreams of glory and of fame ... back home to places in the country, back home to the old forms and systems of things which once seemed everlasting but which are changing all the time – back home to the escapes of Time and Memory." 

That's what Thomas Wolfe famously wrote in his 1940 novel, You Can't Go Home Again. It's true. A Cabbage Patch doll. A VHS copy of "Wayne's World." Buttons from the observation deck of the World Trade Center and the 1986 "Hands Across America" national charity event. These things are, quite literally, dusty relics of history now.

My parents have lived in the same apartment since 1975. It's where I came home to, from the hospital at NYU on East 33rd Street in Manhattan, where I was born. It's where I stay when I go "home" to New York City. 

Any adult who has ever returned to their childhood home knows this feeling well, I am sure: The strange brew of nostalgia, emptiness, and regressive emotions stirred by each room and its trivial objects. I find myself lost amid the ghosts of these things. Each one revives a memory of some long-gone time in my childhood, adolescence, or young adulthood, and the various people and places that defined it. 

This apartment is relatively big by New York City standards, but it feels way too small for all of my overwhelming thoughts and memories to inhabit. It seems a little sadder and smaller each year, almost as though it and everything in it is literally receding in the rear view mirror. 

It makes me feel unsettled about the past, and worried about the future. But it also makes me feel good about where I am in life. It feels right, if a little painful in some way, that I don't live here anymore. It's hard to imagine that one day my kids might come home to Juneau and have these same feelings.

The experience of "going home" as an adult is singularly adept in its ability to whisper in your ear that life is finite; that nothing (and no one) lasts forever; and that no matter how hard you try, you really can't go home again.

1 comment:

  1. Wonderful even in its sadness. Enjoy the "now" before it, too, becomes a cabbage patch doll.


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