Should You Try to Go Home Again?

According to the title from a well-known Thomas Wolfe novel, You Can’t Go Home Again.  This sentiment is often brought up when we reminisce about the places where we grew up, our “family of origin” home. Sometimes we think that life would be better there, that we would feel more secure or more loved. I thought of this today while watching a local theater production of “The Trip to Bountiful.”

Now that I am a single baby boomer (more about this another time), I am making a sincere effort to get out of the house and try different activities. This includes attending local theater, even if it means going alone.

We have three community theaters close by and I am patronizing all of them. In February I saw the musical Grease presented by a theater company just 5 minutes from my house. On Thursday I am seeing “Murder in the Wings” at this same theater. Yesterday I saw “The Trip to Bountiful” at a playhouse about 20 minutes away. I had not seen the TV play or movie. I just decided to go because that’s what was showing.

I am so glad that I went.  I don’t often tear-up when watching live productions but I did yesterday.  I could see that others in the theater – young and old – had the same reaction. This is a credit to both the story and to the fine actress (late ’70’s) who played the lead character, Mrs. Watts.

In a nutshell, The Trip to Bountiful is about an elderly woman who is determined to return to the small Texas town where she grew up. There are obstacles, of course, including her health, her family, and the town of Bountiful itself. While living in the city with her son and daughter-in-law, the woman’s memories of her early family home and life preoccupied her. Mrs. Watts was determined to “go home again” before she died.

Because I think all of you should see this play, I won’t spoil things with more details. If you like being emotionally affected by fine writing and acting, put “The Trip to Bountiful” on your watch list.

So let’s return to the title of this post: Should you try to go home again?

I haven’t done any research but I know from personal experience that this question comes up for many of us, often after a major change in our life. For me, it was when I lost my first wife, at age 25, while I was living and working in south Florida.  I needed a change.  I put a plan together to return to Ithaca in upstate New York , where I attended high school and college and where I still had many friends.  I had no family there but I thought things would be comforting and safe for me, at least for a while.

That plan failed for reasons beyond my control. I did move, but it was an in-state move to attend law school.  I soon re-married, moved to Tennessee and made a new life. I like it here. My sons are here. In the traditional sense of the word, this is home.

I can imagine that other baby boomers think of going “home” when things radically change – or are about to change – such as a retirement. If retirement means relocation, I’m speculating that the family of origin location is on the list of places to consider. This is natural.

I still feel connected to Ithaca. I have friends there that I treasure. I have attended every high school reunion starting with the 20th. (My 45th year reunion is this July.)  Each visit brings back wonderful memories while giving me an opportunity to create new experiences with my dear friends.

Through all of this, my concepts of “home” have changed. To me, home is not a physical location except by reason of the people and experiences who are present around you. Home is where your life is occurring. That is not in the past or in the future. It is in the now.

For some, thinking of returning to the old home place may be a strategy to escape from unhappiness, discomfort or fear. I get that because I have had those same feelings. I try to respond to those feelings with patience and wisdom.

I still feel deep connections to family and friends in distant places. My intention is to nurture those connections through travel and communications. I also want to make new connections with people who are right here. 

I suppose what I am saying is that we don’t “go” home.  We live in our home –  wherever we are – for each minute of every day, with those to whom we are connected.  If we get attached to the idea of being somewhere else, we aren’t home anymore. We are missing out on life, one present moment at a time. The definition of “home” should be an expansive one, to allow for the full acceptance of everything that is happening, in every moment as it occurs.

In that sense, my answer is “yes” – you should go home again. Constantly.

Some wisdom from the Buddha:

The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, not to worry about the future, or not to anticipate troubles, but to live in the present moment wisely and earnestly.

That is a world view that I fully embrace, more so now than when I was younger.

This has been a bit of a rambling post. I regret that I am not better at conveying my true emotions in writing. I did the best I could with my limited skills.

I would welcome and appreciate your thoughts and ideas.

Did I say that you should see “The Trip to Bountiful”?

P.S.:  Support your local theater. I am confident that you will be rewarded.


Comments

  1. Bob Bergstrom says

    I grew up in a small mid-western town, married my high school sweetheart while in college, graduated, and returned home about a year later during a career move. We now have lived 5 miles from our childhood homes for almost 50 years. “Home” today is nothing like the home we knew in the 1960’s. Small town main streets have died off as interstates, super-stores and populations have died off. For someone to make a move based upon old memories would be a big mistake. I love the quiet life here and also connecting with old classmates now that we are retired. But most importantly, as you imply, home truly is a state of mind intersecting with living in the present. Life is good. BB

    • MJP says

      Hi Bob – Thanks for your comments. I’m sure your story of not so great changes in the old home town is a familiar one.

  2. says

    This is just what I needed to hear today. Thank you for that.
    Coincidentally, I just attended a high school production of Noel Coward’s Relative Values last night. Those kids did a great job! Especially considering they performed in English, their second language.

    • MJP says

      Thanks for your concern. I will write more about my single status when I feel the time is right for me and my family.

  3. Dorf Diva says

    Wow, I have spent the last twelve hours reading your website, especially the posts about downsizing. I commend you for your really interesting blog, and the consistency of your posting. Looking forward to reading the lifestyle topics! But after reading so many posts, I am puzzled/alarmed why you say you are single –? None of my business, just hope all is well and you are okay.

  4. mary says

    This was well versed and introspective. I firmly believe home is where you need it to be. This has been a tough year for me but my ‘life’ friends have held me up. Keep writing Mark!

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