You Can’t Always Go Home Again

You can’t always go home again.  That’s the saying, right?  Everything is going to look different, feel different, be different, cause in most cases, it’s not your home anymore.  It’s the memory that exists, and the adventures spent growing up.  This past week, I did go home again.  I thankfully took a week of vacation to both attend the Writers Institute Conference and spend some quality time at home with the family.  Of course, after attending the conference I kept leaving my family to go write for hours.  In case you were wondering, yes, it was wonderful.  But you can’t escape a small town forever, as hard as you might try.  Everywhere I went I learned about another one of my classmates getting married, moving somewhere, having a kid, etc. and then they’d ask me, what are you doing now?  Me?  Oh, I’m writing.  I mean, I manage 20 sales associates at a department store, and I’m writing…again.  Kind of…well, I have a blog…actually…I’m writing about growing up in this town.  *Kill. Me. Now.*  What is it that makes us so competitive and comparing of others when we go home?  Please, someone tell me it goes away with age.

On this trip home, I kept thinking about the same places I used to go to all the time while growing up, and about how they’ve changed.  Take for example, the movie theater.  My mother was good friends with the owner, so she and I would go see movies together when I was little.  I remember going to see the Christmas movie, Prancer, with my mom, and the owner came to our house one day and gave me a copy of the book too.  Now, the theater looks like this:

If you could zoom in any closer, youd see all thats left is a public restroom.

Where I was standing to take the photo used to be the screen room!  Now it’s a parking lot.  And the building was knocked down and rebuilt into a storage space and public restroom.  Not exactly entertaining.

Some of the improvements made in town are wonderful.  The library was able to remodel and expand and it is simply breathtaking.  (Of course, knocking down the cinema so many years ago only helped the library’s case in this feat.  If you can’t watch the silver screen, the town will have to read about it instead! lol.)

Completely handicap accessible now! A whole extra wing! Reading rooms inside for kids, teens, and adults! Coffee and cookies awaiting upon entrance! Touche Librarians!

I find the library’s expansion uplifting.  In a town where three video rentals have closed up due to one Redbox and some netflix subscriptions, it’s nice to know the library is still meeting people’s needs and able to improve and advance its services.

One change, though its most likely proven itself to be safer, more useful, more commercial, and generally more welcoming, will forever make me sad.  The old railroad bridge.

Before: Made of wood, connected to the past, historical in value, a pioneer of structure!

After: Now known as the bike path.

You can see it’s not bad.  I’m all for bikes and encouraging outdoor activity.  But I LOVED that old railroad bridge more than anything else in that town.  Granted, the bridge didn’t look like it did in the first picture when I was growing up, but it really wasn’t far from it.  The steel rails on the sides of the bridge were gone, but the tracks were still there.  The wood was rotting and weathered.  The guard rails thoroughly rusted.  The wooden planks underneath were spacious and a safety risk for children.  But if you were brave enough to cross that bridge, you were somebody.  And me and my friends, hung out on the bridge, late at night staring down at the river below and watching the reflection of the street lights from the town on the water.  So many memories on that old bridge.  Staying up all night to watch the sunrise (turned out to be cloudy all day that day), making up stories about the fishermen that only came out at night, feeding the ducks old bits of bread, saying ‘I love you’ for the first time, and meaning it.

Walking along the bridge now, it didn’t feel special to me.  It felt crowded.  Too many people were walking past me this time.  The river didn’t look as special standing at the railing instead of swinging my legs back and forth over the water.  I was feeling pretty down, ready to start ranting to the next person whizzing by on their bicycle or walking across with a tackle box.  They had no right!  But I stopped myself, and started thinking about where I live now.  Where did I go when I needed some space, and what view was special to me in my new town.  The answer was easy.  The old bridge in the marsh.  The boards are made of wood, the best side view has a giant tree knocked over into the river and the water collects and pools over the branches to wash down the way.  I didn’t feel misplaced or upset anymore.  I felt like I was in the right place in my life right now.  I didn’t belong to this small town anymore, but I grew up in it.  And now I’ve made some roots in a slightly bigger town, but one that still speaks to me, one with an old, wooden bridge in it.  I can’t say how long I’ll stay here, but if I do ever move, I hope I find another old bridge to cross when I’m feeling lost.

Do you ever feel misplaced going home again?  What place is special to you?  What places or things remind you of home in a new way?

20 responses

  1. I have no home, so I rarely ever get to feeling that way.
    Seriously…growing up with my dad in the Air Force and moving every few years wasn’t conducive to generating a feeling of “belonging” anywhere. So when I moved to the Portland area 16 years ago, that became my adopted home.

    1. Ah, but you know how much I LOVE Portland! Laurelhurst Park, that’d be my hang out I think. Unless you know a better spot?

      1. Laurelhurst Park is a very beautiful and peaceful little oasis…it’d make a great hangout. But then again, there are plenty of places like that around here.

        Note to self: a photo post of great Portland hangouts might be fun to do…

        1. Ooh, I’ll be able to see what I missed on my trip.

  2. I left home in 1983…every time I go back to the city near where I grew up, it seems smaller and more redneck (population about 35,000). I’ve always lived in larger cities since then (except for the last couple of years in the country). Most of my friends have moved away…those who stayed I have nothing in common with. As in your town, the places I remember have closed and some have them have been torn down.

    My late mother sold our house in 2003 and moved in with my younger brother in a town 3 hours away…that was the beginning of the feeling that it wasn’t really my “home” any more. I still have my memories of our house, and want to show it to Jim and the kids some day.

    Thoughtful post, Jess.


    1. Well, your house, and of course the succulent bookworm friends, sound divine!

  3. I can’t really speak to this because I’m from a military family and I never lived in the same place for more than a couple years at a time. *shrug* It does, however, weird me out how many of my friends are married, having kids, etc while I’m still in school and have practically no social life except online… I’m gonna be the only single one left soon. It’s weird.

    1. Promise me, Amanda, if we’re still 40 and unmarried, we become writing spinsters together!

  4. In the small town near my parents’ farm, kids hung out on the railway bridge too. It’s odd to go back, isn’t it?

    But cookies at the library? For that, I’d risk it. I spend many hours a week in libraries, including the one in my house, the one in my school, the public library, and a college library. I love libraries so much I even married a librarian. Except, now he’s a recovering librarian.

    1. Recovering librarian? I hope you post about that!

  5. Your home town and your new town have charm and character. My father left when I was 5. My mother died when I was 27. I barely know my dad. He lives about a thousand miles from me in an unfamiliar place that was never my home. I guess I’m just passing through this world, always a visitor, but still very satisfied with my life. Beautiful post, Jess. Blessings to you…

    1. Visitor or not, your writing is very grounded and full of roots and beautiful imagery.

  6. I totally agree with you, Jess. I feel that way about Fort and I never even lived there…. but it has always felt like home to me. Now for my own hometown….. it is changing all the time. It just doesn’t feel the same.

    1. It’s a small town, but it has its quirks.

  7. Unabridged Girl | Reply

    Yay! I love that you have added these photos. It gives flare to the already awesome post. 🙂 And I don’t know why we compare when we go home? But we do. LoL My 10 year reunion is coming up, and I don’t plan on going. I don’t think it sounds like a self-esteem booster. Ha.

    1. Yah, I’m not sure I’d want to go to my reunion either. Just this last weekend home was awkward enough.

  8. Your post made me feel sad. 😦
    Except for the part about the library. I still live in the town I grew up in and the library here is pathetic. Not nearly enough books for my tastes.

    1. Hmm, you strike me as a gentleman who could fix that! Any school you could partner with and do a literacy program book drive?

  9. I totally relate to this. I tend to have all of my stories and novels-in-progress take place in the town where I grew up. My parents still live there and I can see every time I visit them how I’ve made the town something completely different in my head. Now it’s so crowded (like your bridge) that you can hardly get a parking space!

    1. I think everyone does that though. I’m glad you’ve used it as inspiration for your writing.

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