You Can’t Go Home Again

I lived in St. Louis for many years, including my formative “learn-to-drive” years.  In high school I drove all over the west and south county burbs.  No GPS, no “directions” printed out from a computer.  And no problems.

But now that I’m back in the city to assist my mother, I am completely lost.  Nothing looks familiar even when I’m absolutely in a place I know I’ve been before.  In the last few days I’ve mastered the way from Nonny’s condo to the grocery store and back but everything else, I’m using my phone to guide me. There just isn’t anything that pings my memory as I’ve driven around doing various errands. As I was driving yesterday to pick up a shower seat from a friend of my mom’s I realized that if my phone went out, I would have NO idea how to get home. I’d have to stop at a gas station and ask!  

Is it just me or can you really not go home again?

54 thoughts on “You Can’t Go Home Again”

  1. Few emotions are more fundamental and compelling than the desire to return to a place where one was once very happy. But it can’t be done. What we loved was not just a place but a time and place, and time cannot be stopped. The place we loved so much has changed. Even if it had not been, we have.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Precisely put. The time factor is the variable that must change. Therefore, we can’t 100% go home again because we’re a different person than we were 20 or 50 years ago or even yesterday. But I will say that going back home often triggers memories that have lain dormant for a long time.

      Chris in Owatonna

      *BSP* If you happen to be in the Owatonna area tonight from 5-8:30, I’ll have my booth up on North Cedar Ave (100 block) for the second Downtown Thursday of the summer. I’ll be selling and signing copies of Straight River, Castle Danger, and Cooked to Death, Vol. V: Restaurant in Peace.

      DT is basically a block party with food, music, arts and crafts, shopping, and socializing in the heart of Owatonna. Bring a blanket or lawn chair to enjoy the music, enjoy the food from several food trucks and downtown restaurants, and browse the stores and booths on North Cedar. It’s lots of fun and feels so good to chat with people face-to-face!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. We are still considering a retirement move to my home town in a few years. I haven’t lived there since 1976. The town has about 4500 people, slightly fewer than when I lived there.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. You kind of give the impression that you’re still in touch with the place, and won’t suffer the disillusion some are so sure of. I like to think that’s possible.


  3. The last time I was in Manila was 1970. My Filipino friends say ‘don’t go back, you’ll be disappointed’, but my wife isn’t convinced, and she wants to see where I grew up. Sadly, I don’t think that’s possible anymore.

    Liked by 4 people

      1. What a lovely thing to ask! Thank you! If you like SciFi, Illusion is a good place to enter the Anye universe – although you can start with any of the books … despite being sequential, each one stands on its own.

        That said, the Anye books are challenging for some readers. Epic, dynastic, having large casts, big stories, non-Western names. Silken Thread is equally ambitious, but easier to read.

        Not to discourage you … I’ve watched the Amazon dashboard while readers devoured all three volumes in marathon fashion. Alternatively, the latest description for Silken Thread, still basking in MS Word on another panel as I write, goes …


        “A genre-bending adventure, love story, travelogue and morality play — set in a place and time now gone forever.”

        Forbes Park, Metro Manila, 1966 — an enclave where boys grow up playing golf in preparation for the good life. Under the patronage of a family friend, sixteen-year-old expat David Aarens’ future is assured — all he must do is stay the course. Meanwhile, rotating into the CIA from the Air Force, Barb Schneider needs to buckle down, learn the job, and not get distracted by a well-bred high schooler in her Mandarin language class.

        It’s a mismatch bordering on scandal, under the disapproving eye of her boss, at the crossroads of a war in Vietnam and the territories of the Chinese mafia — a trio of gatekeepers, looming in grim competition for the title of ‘most likely to cut things short’.

        But nobody could have guessed what the Agency would do about it.


        If you want to see what Asia looked like in the 1960s, through the eyes of an expat who grew up there, Silken Thread is likely to keep your interest.

        Thanks again for the reply. It makes my day.

        Liked by 3 people

  4. Heroin has taken over from alcohol in our main town.
    They don’t use Fordson Majors on the farms any more.
    If there are any farms.
    But it’s home.


  5. How coincidental. My son has been in Worthington, MN the last two days providing expert witness testimony in an assault case, and now he is in Luverne, my home town (about 30 miles west of Worthington) having breakfast before he heads back to his home in Brookings, SD.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Our family used to regard Long Lake near Park Rapids as the closest place to heaven we knew. My dad and I returned to that lake the year before he died. It was a horrible mistake. Funky little cabin had been replaced by suburban Mcmansions. Old stump fields had been removed. The natural shoreline had been replaced with lawns. The fishing had gone bad. The lake sounded as different as it looked.

    We had reservations in a resort for five days, but after three days of experiencing all the changes we fled for home.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Where in Illinois did you grow up, Timika. I went to school in Carbondale from 1968 to 1972, and went back to visit in 1993. I hardly recognized it, it had changed so much.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. No my apologies….I was trying to clarify my previous statement. I didn’t go in SIUE but at SIUE….so, here in Tillamook, we had one day of 100 degree weather, then like 70 the next day…we r barely getting to 70 degrees…Portland has been way warmer than us…100’s, 90s etc.

          Liked by 2 people

        2. I understand you have a bit of a heatwave going on at the moment. Is it bad where you are?


  7. I find it difficult to talk about returning “Home” without being trite, maudlin and downright banal. That happy place Steve talks about exists only within our own heads. Fortunately we have the ability to go there anytime we want; no car or other mode of transportation required. It’s preserved perfectly in our memories without all of the troubling details that time has obliterated and which made “Home” less than perfect in the moment.

    I don’t mean to sound cynical or harsh, but I know from my own memories that the happy moments by far outnumber the unhappy ones. This despite the fact that my childhood was no bed of roses. Probably a deliberate choice I’ve made somewhere along the way, even if I wasn’t aware that I was making it. The mind works in mysterious ways, at least mine does.

    Liked by 3 people

  8. In a sense, the desire to recapture past happiness by returning to a beloved place is very human, if impractical. What it says to me is that life is what happens now, so we should always strive to enjoy the life we are living now. Things change. People come into our lives and go out again. Things we love–like a radio show that makes us smile–do not last forever.

    When you enjoy something, love it and appreciate it when you can. Very little that we care about lasts forever.

    Liked by 3 people

  9. I don’t remember a lot of things, but I can remember roads and how to get somewhere. For some reason that stuff sticks; scenery and roads look familiar.
    Course that’s all out the window when the field is full of houses now… then it is just the memories.

    I’m almost still home. My old room in the basement just hasn’t been needed so it’s still the way it was painted when I was 10 yrs old. The basement bathroom is bright pinks and striped wall paper and screams 1968. Kelly would love to paint it, I say it’s coming back in style. And I kinda like it. Other rooms in the basement have been painted.
    Out in the shed are remnants of us living out there while this house was being built in 1968.
    We joke; the entry way is 2015, the door to the basement reveals a portal back to 1968.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Whether the idea of “home” is beloved or not, it’s a place that, at one time we thought we knew well. If we expand the sense of home to those places that, early on, were important and formative, it’s understandable that those are the places where we feel most sharply the effects of change, especially if we have not been present to witness and accommodate those changes.

    In our absence, the places we once called home have grown or degraded or transformed without us. You would never expect a place to which you had no attachment to stay the same for several decades but somehow it’s still dismaying when that happens to your elemental places. We hold a mental picture of the place we remember and try to reconcile that with the place that it’s become, feeling that something has been lost and nobody else can see it.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I exaggerated earlier, especially on the subject of heroin. It’s true my home town, Barnstaple, isn’t a fun place to be on a weekend night now. But I’m a country boy, and the hamlets I grew up in haven’t really changed an awful lot. I’ve scoured the back roads over the years, and have kept up.
      I don’t belong where I am now, I belong at home. I’d be at peace, even if I wasn’t happy. I’m just not supposed to be anywhere else.

      Liked by 3 people

  11. It Is a Village, Though
    A place. Only a place. Indistinguishable from much of the forest covering Northeastern Minnesota and up into Canada. A place, only a place unless you looked at this place with the masterly eye of the proto-natives who roamed in small bands through the forest. A low hill with a flat area above a clean-flowing stream, ample supplies of wood for fires and for other useful purposes, rich in game of many kinds.

    It was many times a village for a season or two for the Lakota and the ancestors.

    It was a village only once or twice for the Ojibwa, who, forced west by the European settlement of the eastern Great Lakes region, displace the Lakota out onto the prairie. The native peoples had astounding geography skills which allowed them to find remembered village locations, but they were weak at geology, not knowing what lay beneath the hill and how to use it.

    It was never a village for the trappers, first French and then English. The steam had clogged up, making it of no use to the beaver.

    It was not a village for the five men who came prospecting for iron ore with their geology skills, by which they found the wealth that hid beneath. Five men focused only on rocks for one week do not make a village.

    It became a village again when arrived the first two dozen men to open up the mine and by necessity begin a town. Soon followed many dozens more men, some with women and children, some of whom came to work the mine and some of whom came to serve the men who did. A mining office, a store and post office, boarding houses, and a dining hall were quickly established.

    Ten years later it was a village in full with a few hundred residents, a five stores, two banks, one law office, one doctor’s office, three churches, and a committee of village leaders to incorporate it as a municipality under the statutes of the young State of Minnesota, allowing them to plat and maintain muddy streets, provide a constabulary with jail, build a pine-frame city hall, organize a volunteer fire department, and grant the mining company and railroad all the exemptions and privileges they desired. The committee named the town after a distant wealthy industrialist of dubious integrity but who had a proper English surname, unlike eighty percent of the residents.

    Another ten years later it was a village of more than fifteen hundred residents who, despite some strident objections, added a larger brick city hall with jail, a bigger fire hall with better equipment, a hospital, a small pine-framed elementary school, and parks, which were then no more than lots designated to be kept empty. It was a village because people gathered for their commonweal by assigning or gathering in the various roles a village needs. United they were, despite being divided into different heritages with different cultural norms, into different brands of Christianity, into opposing political points of view, and into social strata based primarily on occupation and nationality.

    It was a village struggling, as all villages do, to serve the greater good for the greatest number of people, allowing exceptions at the top of the social ladder. The library was a telling point for the village, opposed by those who saw it as a waste of tax dollars and a waste of people’s time and by those who feared books as sources of dangerous ideas. A few years after the first small pine-framed library was built in the alley behind city hall, it was replaced by a large-windowed brick and stone building which was provided, along with its oak shelves and books, by Andrew Carnegie, who had made himself wealthy beyond the village’s imagination by turning their high-grade ore into iron and steel. His wealth was built with his skill, his ill-use of his employees from mine to blast furnace, his intimidation of those who dared oppose him, and by his manipulation of Wall Street, which has never been a village.

    It was a village because most of them knew most of the others, because they gossiped about each other, by which is meant among other things knowing and tending to each other’s needs, celebrating together, grieving as one, and parenting each other’s children. In other words, they wove the strands of the web that bound them together, the strongest bonds woven in the hard times, of which there were many. Through boom and bust, it was a village, finding pride in events such as their first high school graduating class of two girls and one boy, the rest of suitable age gone to work instead of high school.

    It continued to be a village as it grew to over 4000 residents, surviving the disaffections and deeper divisions that come with larger size, a village proud of its new brick and granite grade school and imposing high school on the top of the highest point in town, donated by the mining company. More and more students were graduating, more and more were heading south for a better life or to add to their education for a fuller life.

    It was a village united behind their sports teams, which played other mining village. The village was the most united when their teams beat the teams from their rival town only ten miles to the east.

    It was a village when it proudly and naively marched its boys off to wars, stunned but united in grief when the sad telegrams arrived, and bound in relief when most came home as men.

    It was a worried village when the ore of their mine began to dwindle, which caused the population to fall, more young people to head south, and businesses to close. As a village it stood through it all, taking the loss as too personal when their high school closed, sending their young to the rival school ten miles east To the village’s relief, the grade school remained, but only for a few years until the population dropped back to a few hundred residents, most of whom were beyond the parenting stage.

    It remained a village after the downtown closed and house after house was abandoned, a village now driving elsewhere to bank, to shop, to visit the medical clinic, to treat themselves to a meal out, and to hire lawyers to write their wills.

    It is a village still, a village of mostly retired people, more women than men, who gather to mourn the coming final death of the village and to pass around photographs of children and grandchildren who live in distant large cities, where people have no sense of what makes a village and why villages matter.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Been in my mind all day from early read of blog. It was in a set of stories I trashed out. Did not know I had a copy left. Early version, much unedited.

      Liked by 4 people

    2. Nice, Clyde. I’ve been trying to figure out which village you are describing. I know you grew up in the Two Harbors area, and while much of what you write could be about Two Harbors, other details don’t fit. Did you have a particular village in mind when you wrote it, or is it a composite?

      Several of our late friends grew up on the Iron Range, and we were lucky enough to spend considerable time in their wonderful lake homes from which there was ample opportunity to explore the northland. I feel as if I should be able to figure out which village you’re talking about, but I come up empty.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. My recent medical adventures have shown me again how powerful the lure of home is when you must live in a hospital. Suddenly you learn all the ways being home is comfortable and reassuring, which is to say you learn all the ways hospital life is demeaning and frightening. Nurses and doctors obviously understand this. When they swing by to do painful things to you or ask you to do something you hate, the reward is that magic word: home.

    “I know this isn’t very pleasant,” says the nurse who is about to subject your body to some new humiliation and pain, “but remember, we’re trying to get you ready to go back HOME.”

    Liked by 4 people

  13. Our daughter is driving home for a few days in August to attend a wedding in Fargo. Her childhood best friend is flying out to Tacoma from Minneapolis, before Daughter leaves, then the girls will drive to our house, crash, and proceed to Fargo. Friend will somehow get back to Minneapolis. Daughter will drive back to Tacoma, stopping one night to take all the home canned tomato puree I have so she can make pasta sauce,, and jars of frozen pesto to take to friends. Home is where the canned goods are!

    Liked by 5 people

  14. I’m sometimes disconcerted about moments when I’m driving in an area that should be familiar, but it looks so different that it’s an alien planet. Buildings have been changed and roads redirected and trees eliminated.

    There are always places I go that have been changed but still trigger memories of what used to be there. I have a friend who calls these “thin spots”, where it feels like you could almost step through a veil into the past. I often feel this way when I go through a section of the skyway in downtown St. Paul that is now an access point to the light rail station, but once housed the savings and loan where my mother worked. She worked on the lower level of the old Midwest Federal building, in the safe deposit vault. The building was long ago leveled, but I still turn toward the wall in the skyway where the elevator used to be, and memory shows me the path to the place I knew then.

    Liked by 6 people

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