Going Home

Seeing the movie, Wizard of Oz for the first time, the flying monkeys scared me and when the hot air balloon lifted off without Dorothy in it, my stomach tied itself in knots. Glenda, the good witch of the north’s cure for the change in plans was to made Dorothy to click the heels of her ruby slippers together three times and repeat, “There’s no place like home…there’s no place like home.”

There really is no place like the home where we first begin to record memories. The feeling of safety, the fascinating newness we found there and all the first experiences of our lives are filed in a nostalgia bin that we carry with us for the rest of our days.

Few people spend their entire lives in the same house they were brought up in. Some families move frequently and most people move when they reach adulthood. Fanciful memories of our first home makes us remember the rooms as larger, stairway banisters as longer, closets as doorways to Narnian adventures and all food served as gourmet quality.

My daughter moved her big family to a bigger home three years after she was widowed. The house came with several acres of land and was in a more convenient location. None of that mattered to the children.

My grandchildren were not happy about having to move. In their eyes, the small home they lived in, sitting on only one acre of land, was a beautiful, desirable place to live, far beyond anything a new house could offer.

My sister Mary must have felt the same way as my grandchildren. When my parents moved to a newly built farmhouse in our same farmyard, she was six. As a young adult Mary admitted to me that she daydreamed about rehabbing the old house and living in it. Despite the lack of plumbing, wiring and heating, she felt that house was beautiful and desirable, its emotional worth far beyond all the bells and whistles of the new house.

Some people like to drive by their old homes, almost as if they are stalking, finding joy in just seeing that it is still there. Unfortunately, returning to the house we grew up in often turns out to show that the glorified memories don’t measure up to reality.

Psychotherapist Mark Trybulski says that wanting to revisit your childhood home is “About reconnecting with the innocence and the positiveness of a childhood gone by.” He said, “Since so many people long to revisit their childhood homes, I’m sharing best practices for getting inside when a drive-by isn’t enough:” Just knock. You’re not guaranteed entry; don’t take it personally. Ask for a tour. It would be ideal to walk through the house unattended, but this won’t happen unless the house was purchased by a friend or relative. Be open and honest about how you feel. Be prepared for changes. Brace yourself. Even the smallest, necessary changes, can really throw you for a loop.

Blogger Briana Haas-Zak told of an opportunity she had to visit her childhood home, decades after she had moved away. She said the experience made her feel sad because the stairway no longer looked as grand as she remembered, and there was no evidence that she’d ever lived there at all.

Then she remembered one last place to look. As a teenager, she had had a tremendous crush on a young man. She headed to the closet in her old bedroom. There on the wall, in a spot you would have to know where to look, she found her handwriting, “I love Mike”. Mike was long gone and forgotten but seeing those three words filled Briana with a weird feeling that was both exhilarating and devastating, tinged with loss and hope all at the same time.

 Thomas Wolfe wrote, “You can’t go home again.” He was right in one way. Things change and we change. Wolfe didn’t take into account the homes built by love and memories which we carry in our hearts.  

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