You can’t go home again

Especially if it’s not there anymore.

My hometown is still there.  I never thought I’d want to go back, but age has a way of changing one’s perspective and I sometimes find myself longing for those woods and valleys.  Of course, I recognize that some of that is nostalgia and really living there would not be ideal in many ways – no jobs or economy for one thing, terrible winter weather I’m not used to anymore for another – but I’ve been reading about people who have a connection to where they live and it’s made me think.

The houses I lived in aren’t available to me anymore.  We rented half of a double until I was 9 – a beautiful brick home with no yard or land.  Then we bought the house on Sam Street with the hardwood floors and the huge basement and tiny yard.  I found both of them on Google easily, especially the one on Sam Street because it’s still the robin’s egg blue my parents painted it back in 1978.  Someone else lives there now.  I didn’t recognize the name.

My mother’s parents’ home has been sold and i don’t know those people either.  Before Grandma K moved to the nursing home, my uncle moved her washer & dryer upstairs so she wouldn’t have to deal with the steep steps I used to slide down on my bum as a child.  I assume the new owners have moved them back downstairs.  I wonder what else they’ve changed.  Do they know my grandfather built that house and did all the improvements my grandmother wanted, including the bay window and the finished basement with bar?  Have they noticed the penny in the patio wall that was put there new when Pap built it?  Have they used the grill that I can still see him cooking at, with a beer on the wall and a cigarette in his hand?

The one that makes me want to cry is my dad’s parents’ home.  I think of it as a my “real” home because I spent so much time there.  It feels like it was every weekend, but I’m sure it wasn’t quite that often.  My parents were young and went out on weekends a lot and I stayed at my grandparents’ house.  I played in the woods behind their house, memorizing the path so well that I can picture it in my mind easily, more than 30 years later.  It’s my mental “safe place”, the place I envision when I need to remember feeling happy and free.  I would stay up late watching mysteries with Gammy and then SNL and SCTV and The Midnight Special and Kirshner’s Rock Concert.  Then we’d get up at noon the next day and Gammy would make me breakfast and I’d go run around outside for the rest of the day if the weather was good.  If it wasn’t, I’d watch movies with my uncle or play cards with Gammy or read.

The house is literally gone.  My uncle lost the house and the new owners tore it down and built a new one on the foundation.  They cut down the huge tree in the middle of the backyard too.  I can’t tell from Google if the rosebushes out front are still there or not.  I can tell that some idiot built a house off the dead end of the street and back in the woods, probably messing that all up.

I love my uncle, but I may never be able to forgive him for this.

I can remember these houses in detail, even “walk through” them in my mind’s eye.  But I can never physically be in them again.

Am I nostalgic for these places or for what they represent?  Freedom, youth, innocence, a sense of rootedness?  Or maybe I miss my grandparents and the feeling of love and safety they gave me.

Maybe all of the above.

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