Tuesday, August 7, 2012

You CAN go Home, You Just Can't Stay

And so it was decreed that I should sojourn in the land of my youth. It was the first time in over ten years that I had been in the United States on my own, and many more years since I had spent any significant time in that particular portion of it.

Home has been described as that place you cannot go back to, and yet here I was, wandering the lazy lanes on hazy afternoons, driving the familiar highways and stopping to chat with old friends in the village shops. I sought out old haunts and dusted off some memories while I adjusted to my new role as Patriarch of my small but growing family.

The essence of the land, that spirit of the place I call home, is—as one friend put it—imprinted in my DNA, and it sooths me in ways no other location can; sitting in the back yard on a warm night, with a bottle of Sam Adams Summer Brew and a Henry Clay cigar, talking bollocks with your buddy while gazing up at an impossible number of stars, well, there's nothing quite like it, is there?

Main Street, Valatie, near where I grew up.

And yet I was adrift, unmoored from the tether that has held me for so long. I suppose, in these modern times, it is unusual for a man my age to still have access to the home he grew up in, but that has been my reality, my rock and my anchor for all of my many years. When I went there on this trip, however, I knew it was for the last time. I would never walk across that threshold again. I would, in all likelihood, never visit that location again. Home, but no longer mine; it is true, you cannot go back.

All that remains are memories, so I collected as many as I could, determined to soak up the sights, smells, sounds and textures of the land and keep them safe with me. Devoid of a physical connection, however, I fear they are destined to fade.

Malden Bridge. Compared to where I actually grew up, this was a big town; there was nothing but corn fields and cow farms where I lived.

My journey, as all journeys must, came to an end, and I returned to Britain and my little flat on the Bishopric some three thousand miles from the house I started my life in. Almost immediately, the memories of America were displaced by the details of daily life, the rhythm of routine and the relief of being on the same continent as my wife.

Garrison Keillor has defined home as the place that, when you go there, they have to let you in. I suppose then, if you accept his definition, I am home.


  1. It is kind of mind-blowing the change in where you grew up and where you are now. I've been researching my American in-laws and their ancestors did the same thing - moving from one landscape to a completely different one. People think they live remotely in the UK but in truth, you're never that far from a village or another human being. Here - you can be!

  2. Beautifully written, insightful post! I think that sometimes nostalgia colors the places and events of our past so much that when returning to them, we find them a disappointment.

  3. Thanks. It was an interesting and nostalgic interlude, and a good chance to compare what was to what is. Not an opportunity that comes along every day, so I was glad for it.

  4. This post is a lovely combination of sweet and sad. I can't imagine coming back to my home someday and thinking that I'll never return. *SNIFF*