Whos Afraid Of Thomas Wolfe
Okay... in full disclosure, I had heard of Thomas Wolfe but it was this song by Josh Joplin that made me want to find out more. (I did in fact read some Thomas Wolfe eventually. While considered a literary great, I must say, his writings tend to make me sad.) In the 10 years or so since I first heard this song, I have been mildly fascinated by the notion that you can never go home again. What did that mean?
Countrymouse and I have been talking a lot about family lately. Sometimes mine (this could include those of mouse house fame, but I'm really thinking of the one I grew up in) can really get under my skin, but I love them desperately. Having lost two of them in under six months just makes each of the others that much more precious to me.
There's lots written about *home*...
“A house is made of walls and beams; a home is built with love and dreams.” (unknown)
“Home is not where you live, but where they understand you” (Christian Morganstern)
“Home is a place you grow up wanting to leave, and grow old wanting to get back to” (John Ed Pearce)
“He is the happiest, be he king or peasant, who finds peace in his home” (Johann Wolfgang van Goethe)
“I long, as does every human being, to be at home wherever I find myself.” (Maya Angelou)
“Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.” (Robert Frost)
“There's nothing half so pleasant as coming home again.” (Margaret Elizabeth Sangster)
Yet, I really did get what Thomas Wolfe meant when he wrote, "You Can't Go Home Again". But did I believe it? Did it apply to me?
During one of my conversations with Countrymouse, it dawned on me that I had never really left home. Funny realization for the girl who moved (kicking and screaming and crying) from New York City to BFE Maryland at age (almost) 14 and swore she was getting The Hell Out of Dodge the minute she graduated from high school (but didn't).
I've learned that home really isn't a building. I've also learned that home is not the same for everyone. For me it's always been where my parents were. That was easier when I was young and hadn't traveled that far from my full-time life under their roof. Of course I went "home" during college breaks, etc... where was I supposed to go? Even when I was newly married, we came "home" all the way from Cleveland (almost 400 miles away) every chance we got. Most of my siblings were still there, as well as my parents and extended family. At first it just made sense and maybe I still saw it as coming to a physical location, but as time went on, I realized it was because my parents represented the heart and therefore, the home, of our family. We continued to come "home" even when there was no one else around.
What I realized is that all the decisions I've made in my life have kept me tethered to my family. I chose to go to two different colleges just under an hour away from home. When applying for a residency, Countrymouse selected ones in Maryland first. When needing to decide where to ultimately practice, we chose a town 20 miles away from "home". (We even moved to my hometown for a few years when we first came back.) And the Pièce de résistance... buying my parents house 3 years ago, leaving a nearby town that we all loved but knowing this would be good on so many deeper levels.
It's just my dad now, and to be honest, things aren't exactly the same. My mom, for good or bad, truly defined what our family was/is. But his heart is big and though it's taken a few blows recently, is still wide and giving. And in spite of all his romanticism about living in Europe and in spite of our wanderlust and growing disappointment with living in Maryland, Countrymouse and I know we'll be here as long as he is because he is home.
Leo Tolstoy (another bring-me-down author) wrote, "I know which is the road that leads home and if I weave like a drunken man as I go down it that does not mean the road is the wrong one." (Of course, this is probably closer to my own life than any of the quotes above.) So dear, dear Mr. Wolfe, I think maybe you couldn't go home again, but don't pin that on me.