It is true that one cannot truly go home again. Indeed, one never steps in the same river twice, as the old saying goes. At the same time, I’m not sure I need to do so, nor even want to do so. That being said, traveling to, and visiting in, one’s home town and one’s former home can be an invigorating and enjoyable experience. And, I don’t mean a trip down memory lane, exactly. It depends, in part, on the fellow travelers that accompany one’s trip.
This last weekend, I had the privilege and opportunity for visiting my mother for an extended stay. Regrettably, it was a mixed blessing, as my beloved Sharon stayed home with one of our dear sons. He was ill. My mom celebrated her 85th birthday, itself an opportunity for joy. Visiting her, and visiting with others of my immediate family was cause for good memories in other ways, though. Meeting with some of her long-time acquaintances helped me appreciate another face of who she has been, and is, and then, watching her unwrap and delight in her gifts was delight for myself and my boys who are turning into men in their own right.
After the more public celebration, my mother invited us over to the house (to the “home place”, if we had been outside of town) for some games. After settling in at the hotel, we joyfully accepted her invitation. It was fun to relax with, and re-learn, the old Parker Brothers’ game of PIT, the card game that imitates the grain market. You have the various grains, like flax, and wheat, and corn (seven suits in all), and then you have the bull and the bear. The bear is always bad, and we always try to get rid of it (but never to Grandma, a.k.a. “Mom”). The bull can be good, if a player has at least eight cards of that particular grain, but bad, if someone else gets “a corner” on whatever grain they have gathered.
So games and a light lunch with hot tea was part of the visit, but also a little history, a little bit of “investigation” and a little curiosity satisfied. Mom was trying to rid herself of a few extra books, and “free books”, especially “inherited books”, is like waving cheese in front of a mouse. Duh. What’s not to like, especially when the browsing and selection of said books comes with a back story from me, or my mother? But the location of said books was an equal delight, I think, to the males of the next generation, or so it seemed.
For the books, and a lot of other cool artifacts and items in storage, were (and are) located in my old bedroom on the front porch. Now, the thing about my old bedroom that is particularly unusual is the height of the platform on which my former mattress formerly rested. During Christmas break one year, one of my brothers and I (okay, mostly my brother) built a loft bed in my room with dad’s blessing and financial assistance for the materials. The room has a nine-foot ceiling, and the floor of the room is about eight feet by sixteen feet . (Just a guess.) Putting a bed in that space took up a lot of real estate, but with the bed space above the closet and the dresser, well, hey, I could live in style, baby! I had room for a desk, and a bean bag, and some African violets (although, I can’t remember what I had on the one wall across from the book shelf or whether I had plants, even). My bed was, in any case, between 18 to 24 inches below the ceiling, and when I was lying on my mattress, waiting to go to sleep, or first thing upon awakening from sleep, my nose was probably less than ten inches from the ceiling. Access to the loft was by rope ladder secured to the joists by a couple of threaded eye bolts. Yup.
Seeing that room, that bed, and games with their Grandma through the eyes of my boys was priceless. Memories of simpler times mixed with shared experiences of three generations. “A good time was had by all”. It was with determination that we rose from the PIT game with smiling faces, put on our “wraps”, and bid my mother good night until church the next day.
After checking out of our hotel room, and before shared breakfast with more family the next day, I drove east and west and north and south through town, highlighting the airport, the old swimming pool, the sledding hill, the old horse pasture about three blocks from our house, and the noted absence of the cigar store with its requisite wooden Indian (among other sights). Whether they were truly interested or just humored me, I don’t know, but the boys continued to ask questions about our whereabouts. Finally, before heading to breakfast with my brother and his family, we stopped by the giant Pheasant so I could take a quick photo of them for posterity (and for those absent).
No, I can’t go home again, because the place is always changing. But so am I. Like an old friend, there is mutual admiration and appreciation of that change. Home and I, we recognized each other, and it was good.