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.”
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.