‘You can’t go home again.”
It’s a saying I’ve heard all my life, but the older I’ve gotten the more I’ve come to understand how true it really is.
I recently made a very rare visit back to my hometown to visit the cemetery where both of my parents were laid to rest. I only make the trip a couple of times a year now and for the single purpose of placing flowers at their graves.
This time I made a detour I haven’t made in quite a while and took the old familiar route to the house where I grew up. Unlike the countless times I’ve traveled that road through my life, I didn’t stop and didn’t turn into the driveway. The little house on the hill is no longer part of my family or my life. Instead, a new family now calls it home and is busy making their own memories.
It was the first time I’ve been through the old neighborhood since we sold the house I grew up in. While the big fence still stands along the roadway and my dad’s garage still stands tall beside the spot where his garden once grew, it’s just a house now and not my home.
My hometown has grown and changed in countless ways since I left to begin my own life and family almost 20 years ago. The street names are still the same and some familiar landmarks remain, but so much is different it’s almost unrecognizable to me. Through the final years of my parents’ lives I would visit briefly, but usually only to see them and not to spend time in the city so the growth and progress there passed me by.
I’m never sure how my visits to that place are going to affect me and this one was no easier than the others. There’s a profound sense of displacement and loss that strikes me on each visit. It’s a sense that though much is the same, the place I grew up in no longer exists.
A home is much more than wood and brick and shingles. In our minds, it becomes something much bigger, a structure made of memories, experiences and the people we shared them with. When those things are gone, all that remains is an echo of the past that can never truly be held again.
Christmas is a time of memories and for me, like so many, it’s often a mixed experience. I work to make memories for my children and I treasure the memories of my own childhood years. At the same time, I find myself longing for the innocence, security and comfort of a warm spot beside the fire with my parents around me. What I wouldn’t give to hear my father’s laugh or feel my mother’s embrace once again, just for a moment. Those days are gone and instead I hold on to those memories and remain thankful for the love they left me with, to keep me warm when the winds of life blow cold.
We really can’t go home again, but some small piece of it will always remain deep in our hearts and it’s that small ember that glows brightest each year at Christmas. May it always give us hope and comfort us on the coldest of days.