I was reading a Facebook post by a cousin of mine this evening. While he lives on the East Coast, in a large city, he had returned to his home when he was a youth in a small Midwest town. He wrote:
"The seduction of this town of my youth epitomized in that when I go out walking in it at night a startled wild rabbit runs across the lawn I am walking past and the nearest traffic I can hear is a quarter mile away."
That brief post got me to thinking about the allure of going home.
Of course, great literature has been written on this theme. One of the oldest classics is The Odyssey, which is ALL about Odysseus returning home, or trying to, after the Trojan War. That was a long trip, a very l...o...n...g trip home.
There are dramas about losing the sense of home. King Lear comes to mind. Lear is not so much trying to return to the home of his youth; he is trying to find home in his old age. In his waning years, he suffers the ravages of aging, including being outcast by his daughters one by one. He has, of course, complicated matters by promising his kingdom to his daughters if they will first say how much they love him. The two older daughters flatter him with glowing effusive declarations of love. The youngest--Cordelia--refuses to reduce her love for her father to honeyed words. She loves him more than words can express. Lear mistakes this refusal for her lack of love and disowns her.
Well, I don't want to tell you the whole King Lear story--let's just say it ends badly with Lear losing everything, including his home.
Robert Frost's poem "The Death of the Hired Man" contains these haunting lines about home: "Home is where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in." That is certainly a spare, and somewhat sad definition of home. But it does resonate.
Home is understandably a place. My husband grew up in a small town in central Pennsylvania. If he wants to, he CAN go home again. He can go right back to the town, to the street where his grandparents lived, and the street where he and his parents lived in the house his father built. Of course, all of those dear ones are no longer living, but the place can still speak their memories.
But when I think about going home, I think of the part of Africa where I grew up. In particular, the one mission station is in the country of Zimbabwe, and even though the mission still stands, everything has changed. I have seen photos of the house where we lived, and it has changed in so many ways. (The photo above is one of the mission house as I remember it.)
I am left with a sense that I can't go home again. Not for lack of thinking about home where I grew up. But because of the vicissitudes of time having completely altered the geography of my memory.
What say you--can you go home again?