“I know they say you can’t go home again,
I just had to come back one last time,
Ma’am I know you don’t know me from Adam,
But these hand prints on the front steps are mine.
I thought if I could touch this place or feel it,
This brokenness inside me might start healing,
Out here it’s like I’m someone else,
I thought that maybe I could find myself,
If I could just come in I swear I’ll leave,
Won’t take nothin but a memory,
From the house that built me.”
It’s funny that saying… “you can’t go home again”
after a while, unless you’re one of the lucky ones, you really, really can’t.
I “grew up” in a few houses.
The bulk of my childhood memories, the good ones, we’re my Bay Mills Blvd days.
A tiny townhouse, in a section of “Ontario Housing” (government subsidized)
We were poor I guess, looking back, but it sure didn’t feel like it then.
I wore “North Stars” (Woolco’s version of Addidas) and poured powdered milk over my no name, bulk “puffed rice” and I had more friends then I could keep track of. Some lived in “the projects” with me, most lived in the large beautiful homes on the surrounding streets in the neighbourhood. My school was right across the street. I could actually wait until I heard the first bell and then walk out my door.
Life was good there. Life was happy there. I was happy there.
When I was 12, we moved to a house in a better neighbourhood.
A beautiful bungalow, with a huge back yard, a winding front walk lined with flowers that my parents worked meticulously on on weekends.
Now I had to take the bus to school or get driven.
I still had lots of friends, but it was an effort to get together with them now.
The first couple of years there were good.
My first boy/girl party happened in the basement of that house.
My first crush on a “man” happened over the back fence of that house.
My dad flooded the yard in the winters, so we had our own private skating rink behind that house.
I had my first job, my first kiss, and my first heartbreak in the house.
I celebrated my grandparents 40th anniversary in that house.
Then life got “real”
I sat on the couch in the livingroom and made amends with my dying mother in that house.
Months later I sat in the dark, empty silence in that house.
I found my dad’s deceased dog in the backyard of that house.
I welcomed the “new mom” who would in short order all but destroy my family in that house.
I packed up and left at 17, with but a few boxes of memories in the middle of an afternoon, leaving an ‘have moved out’ note on the kitchen counter in that house.
Life was not good there. Life was not happy there. I was not happy there.
I had a room there.
After his divorce, my dad lived here and there, finally, years later, renting a house with his girlfriend.
It’s where I lived while I picked up the pieces of my life after my own divorce.
A couple of months, at 27yrs old, living in a bare, unfamiliar room, in a house with no history.
3 yrs later, after my father died, I would be helping to pack up that house.
For the bulk of my teen/early adult years, my grandparents lived in a cute little house in Colborne. It had an attic that they set up like a little apartment for me. It was my safe place. The last fortress of family history, an accessible place that tied my deceased parents to myself. The clock ticked loudly, the kitchen smelled of homemade pies and roasted meat with gravy, and I shared hundreds of cups of tea curled up on the couch while my grandparents rocked in their fancy easy chairs to the sounds of irish music, and laughed at each other’s silly stories.
I would pack up that house too, a handful of years after I lost my dad, saying goodbye to my last blood relatives, my maternal grandparents, in the span just of 3 weeks.
I no longer have a room there.
So it seems I can’t go home again. Anywhere.
My childhood homes.
My marital home.
My grandparents homes.
There is no place with a familiar driveway, a familiar banister, a familiar sound, a familiar smell to welcome me in the door.
I watch movies where all the adult kids come “home” for big family gatherings at the familial home. Their height charts faded on a door frame, their childhood memories on the walls and bookshelves… and I ache with jealousy.
I feel “rootless”.
I feel like a nomad, journeying lost through my own life.
Maybe that is why I have lived in this tiny apartment for almost 20 years now. So that I do have a place to come back to, no matter where I go, or for how long.
It’s small, and run down, but it’s familiar. It’s my adult history. It’s “home”
There is a website called “Dear Photograph” that also got me wanting to take a journey in the way back machine.
When I first discovered it, it made me smile, then it made me sad.
When I heard the song (the lyrics above) I started thinking about this even more
Maybe I’ll dig through some photo albums this weekend, then take a little road trip this summer and re-capture some memories. I already have a few snapshots in mind.