They say “you can never go home again.”
Well, of course you can. I did it last week.
I returned to my parent’s home (the one they have lived in for the last 20+ years) for a week to share in the joy of celebrating my grandmother’s 90th birthday with my family from all over the country. I spent the week seeing friends, visiting my old high school, and seeing some of my favorite spots around town. I drove the same roads I’d driven hundreds of times before, took routes I didn’t even have to think about, and felt comforted by the familiarity that surrounded me. I saw my family for multiple events over the weekend in different locales, all places I’ve enjoyed in the past.
When I travel to visit my parents, I call it “going back home.” It’s a term that I’ve recently learned does not mean the same to everyone as it does to me, my family, and those who grew up in my area. Maybe it’s a regional thing. My west-coast born and raised husband doesn’t understand that it’s not a slam on our home. That it’s just a terminology difference. I’ve tried to explain it, but apparently not too successfully.
When I say “I’m going back home” it does not take away any of the “home” from the place where my husband and I live, from the home where we are raising our daughter and our dog. The home we’ve torn to pieces to remodel and make it our own. The home where I cook dinner, do laundry, and mow the lawn. The home that is filled with dog barks and giggles and laughter and toddler noises. The home where we know all the quirks and traits that make it our own.
It means I’m going to a place I know. A place with which I’ve spent years becoming comfortable, learning, and figuring out. Where I’ve spent years doing the same things with myself. It’s the backdrop for thousands of memories. Years of schooling. Family events. Gatherings with friends. Hard lessons learned. Growth and change.
It does, however, strike a contrast between my two homes. One is filled with over two decades of comfort and memories. The other is a place where we’re only 3 years in and I’m still learning what there is to love about it. I don’t know it as I know where I came from, but I know it has redeeming qualities (as everyone who visits says they want to move here). I’m trying to make the best of it, but sometimes it’s difficult, especially when I’m trying to find things that will help me feel a sense of familiarity and I come up short.
People tell me I’ll “make new memories.” And that’s true. And I have. And I also have to remember it takes time. I strongly disliked my college town for most of the time I was there. It was “too small.” “Boring.” “Not in the right part of the state.” Now I look at it with nostalgia and love going back to visit. I enjoy the things that are the same – the historical bits of campus, but I also am happy to see it growing and changing to become a better place for the new students and faculty.
I was talking with one of my best friends the other day about this, and she has moved quite a bit in her life due to her father’s job(s). Most of it was in childhood when it can really be helpful to have a solid home base in order to establish friendships and your sense of self. She told me this:
From someone who has moved a lot, it is very difficult to make yourself be happy in a place that does not make you happy. You can only make the best of it.
While I wouldn’t say I’m unhappy where I am – most definitely not – it’s hard to say I’m definitely happy. And this is coming from someone who believes happy is a state of mind, not where you physically are. Though it’s hard to not let your surroundings have an effect on that happiness. It takes a conscious effort. And I’m consciously efforting on a daily basis.
It will come with time. I have faith in that. In the meantime, I’m going to enjoy the memories we are making and know those are weaving themselves into my life-fabric as did the memories before them.