Friday, June 02, 2006

You can’t go home again

Until just a few years ago, my aunt still lived in the house where the family had moved when my father was 8 years old. It was a row house on a city street, and I remember running up and down its long, open basement, spending the night in the room that had been my dad’s when he was a boy, making pancakes from scratch on Saturday morning under my aunt’s supervision.

I returned to that house again and again over the years, eventually bringing my own children with me. I told them about family gatherings with my father’s mother, sisters, aunts, and uncles, and I showed them my old pictures, but I’m not sure they could really understand what that house meant to me. Though I never lived there, for half a century it represented home, a place where I could go to revisit happy times with departed relatives and remember what it was like to be a child with so many good things yet to come.

In time, though, my aunt grew old and feeble, and eventually she had to move. I joined in the sad work of dismantling our family’s urban homestead; the ensuing diaspora of household goods meant that all of us in the next generation now have a piece of the place to call our own. The house sold quickly to a young family who were excited about making a home there, and we were glad for them. I went back a year or two later, though, to look it over again. Though I still had a picture of every room in my mind’s eye, in real time I could only stand in the street and stare at the outside because the place wasn’t mine any more.

I made a visit last week to the church where I was an active member for 26 years, until I walked away in sorrow a year and a half ago, and it felt much the same as revisiting the family home of my childhood. No matter how familiar the church looked, no matter how many memories I have, it isn’t my home any more. I found myself yearning for the comfort of belonging there, of going to 8:30 Mass and looking around to find the old gang gathered just like old times, but though I willed myself to imagine going back, I couldn’t manage to make it feel right.

We move on, build new homes, make new families, and maybe it's wrong to try to cling to the places we’ve been. I grateful for all of my homes , but I think maybe it's time to let go of this one and move on.

The view from the back corner where I was hiding. Like any good Catholic, I tended to sit in the same place every morning, which for a long time was on the left side of the center aisle about seven pews from the front, although once it occurred to me that the women all seemed to sit on the left and the men on the right, I switched to the right just to be contrary.


At 12:03 PM, Anonymous Lorna said...

I grateful for all of my homes , but I think maybe it's time to let go of this one and move on.

poignant and lovely too. Be blessed as you search!


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