It turns out the old saying is true: “You can never go home again.”
I know that too well.
Tom Wolfe popularly said this in his book by the same title, published in 1940.
The applicable passage reads:
“You can’t go back home to your family, back home to your childhood … back home to a young man’s dreams of glory and of fame … back home to places in the country, back home to the old forms and systems of things which once seemed everlasting but which are changing all the time – back home to the escapes of Time and Memory.”
Plainly, the reason you can’t go home is that the home that exists in your mind does not exist today.
Since you were there, your hometown has changed.
Your parents are older and different now. Your friends are also older or have mostly moved away. Your old teachers are now mostly gone. Your favorite restaurant may have closed. Your old High School building may now be the Junior High. And, finally, you have grown up and changed in all kinds of ways.
The home that exists in your mind is only a memory.
Famed Hollywood agent and producer, the late Jerry Weintraub, echoes this verbatim in his autobiography, When I Stop Talking You Will Know I’m Dead, with Rich Cohen.
I wandered the streets in my Cricketer coat, hands in pockets, looking into windows. The corners were empty, my friends were gone. You go away believing that when you return, your world, your house, your parents—all of it will be waiting for you when you get back. But time passes, and you change, and as you change, everything else changes, too, so when you return you realize there is no home to return to. It’s gone. When you stood at the train station, waving good-bye, you did not understand what you were waving good-bye to—the world of your childhood dissolved behind you.
Sure, you can go back to your old hometown – but it is never the same – is it?
A certain nostalgia can hit when you look back on your memories in this way. Maybe it’s the loss of time that we finally notice. Or, the change in the way in which we view the world. Or, the way we view ourselves.
Life is so short – and in some respect, all of those old moments are gone forever.
I, however, think I understand this phrase, “You can never go home again.” more than most.
See, the son of a fighter pilot, I lived all over the place before my dad retired from the Air Force.
But when he did, he took a job in Taif, Saudi Arabia working for Boeing. We lived on the Al-Gaim Compound.
We left to live in Saudi Arabia when I finished the second grade – and we came back to live in the USA the year before I started High School.
Most of my classmates were in Saudi even longer.
So while many can take their kids and spouse, and at least show them the town and buildings that they remember of home – I cannot.
Short of a personal invite by Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Bin Abdulaziz Alsaud (@Alwaleed_Talal), or the like, I will never see my old home again – or at least what’s left of it.
Like they say: Life is so short. And for some, home only exists as a memory or longing.
Wouldn’t it be great to be able to go home again, just one more time?
Everyone has an Eden, a perfect world lost when they were small.
-Rich Cohen, Lake Effect