Sunday, March 6, 2011

You Can Go Home, You Just Can’t Stay

This week, we ponder what “going home” means when you’ve been away for a while.


Home, as Garrison Keillor has noted, is that place where, when you show up, they have to take you in.  I just returned from a two-week sojourn in my native land and, while everyone was very welcoming and accommodating, it was very obviously not where I belonged.

If I had never moved away, it would simply be the place I lived and I’m sure I would go through my days without the sense of underlying melancholic nostalgia that seems to increase with each visit.  By being away, events in my past life take on a significance they never would have had otherwise: the house—many times sold and modified since I last was inside it—where I visited Mary Callen one night while she was babysitting and had to climb out the bathroom window when the parents returned unexpectedly early, the curve in the road where four of my friends died in a spectacular car crash, the bend in the creek where I spent many lazy and languid afternoons.  These tattered remnants of time haunt my visits now and make me wonder if I could ever move back and truly fit in.

And other ghosts appear, as well.  My son is no longer the child, but a father, promoting me to grandfather, and I see myself in him in surprising ways.  My own father, the white-haired patriarch of the family, will someday pass that title to me, white hair and all, and the new child (as well as his future siblings) will now be the focus of attention, concern and hopes for the future.  It’s as if we have all been promoted to the next level on the conveyor belt to eternity.

I had a wonderful time there, really, but I almost relieved to be back in Sussex.  I am certain there are many, many ghosts here but, so far, none of them are haunting me.


I still dream about “going home” but I know it will be a bit of an Alice in Wonderland experience if I ever do. Half of the names I read about these days have no meaning for me at all. A quick glance at the Mail Online (for blogging purposes only) usually leaves me non-plussed. Katie Price? Didn’t she used to look different? Wasn’t she called something else? I’ve never heard of half the boy bands and couldn’t pick out Peaches Geldoff in a line-up if my life depended on it.

It’s a bit of a weird feeling when I do “go home”. A lot has changed and yet a lot has stayed exactly the same, and I’m not just talking about Ken and Deidre in Corrie. I always feel right at home as soon as I step off the plane at Heathrow, and yet I don’t always know what I’m doing.

Before they made their debut Stateside, those bloody Dyson hand dryers used to scare the life out of me. You could do yourself an injury with one of those! And I was completely wowed with the hand held gadgets that are commonplace in UK restaurants now, but still a bit of a rarity in the USA. It’s bliss to sit on a loo without worrying that everyone on the other side of the door can see you, but not so great when the service beyond the public loo is so slow that I sound like an American when I voice my impatience.

Perhaps there’s a no man’s land somewhere in the middle of the Atlantic we could all stop off at to re-adjust before heading “home”?

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  1. Great timing for this post as I'm spent the weekend feeling melancholy and a little homesick for NZ. I was surprised when I was at home at Xmas time that I did feel relaxed there as if I'm constantly on guard here, and aware that I am l'autre. I know that's a function of time and space, and that I haven't managed yet created a new lifestyle that I'm comfortable with here (one to challenge my old lifestyle perhaps?), and not the fault of the place itself. None of my family of origin live in NZ any longer so I know that it's not a hunger to live by them, there's something about me that makes NZ a natural place for me to live despite knowing that I'm here for the time being. I agree that 'home' changes as you change, so no I don't think you can ever truly go back 'home'.

  2. Mike: I think this nostalgia gets worse with age. Maybe worse is not the right word but it certainly becomes stronger, as more memories are stored.
    Glad you feel that this is your home now. I guess *home is where the heart is*, as the saying goes.

    I live here and don't know all the bands & singers!

    I rather like those hand dryers. They get the job done in a jiff! I wouldn't like see through toilet doors.
    Maggie X

    Nuts in May

  3. This is really interesting to me. I often feel that I don't have a 'home' anywhere particularly, as I travel so much. Yeah, I have places that I live for a bit, but beyond that... even visiting my parents is simply just visiting, not "going home" as I never even lived in one village growing up.

    But the most bizarre time I heard those words was when they were coming out of somebody else's mouth. When I lived in the States I was interviewed for a friend's performance called, "I'm not from here" and as I listened to her say, "Being an English woman in America is like being a drop of oil in a glass of water... I never quite blend in," it was quite upsetting. But that is where I feel most 'me', most Laura. So that is as good a home as I will ever get, I guess .America. Somewhere where I can just be 'me'.

    Great post for getting me thinking! x

  4. I like the idea of a mid-Atlantic re-adjustment location.

  5. Yes, maybe a debriefing station in the Azores? We could be re-trained in popular culture, and have words like 'garbage', 'sidewalk' and 'movies' erased from our brains, like in that film Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

  6. I agree with Nappa Valley Girl, there's film potential in this somewhere, most likely in the sci fi genre!


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