You Can’t Go Home Again


The writer Thomas Wolfe wrote a novel entitled “You Can’t Go Home Again.”  The main character in the book, George Webber, realizes “You can’t go back home to your family, back home to your childhood …back home to places in the country, back home to the old forms and systems of things which once seemed everlasting but which are changing.”

And L.P. Hartley in his book, “The Go-Between” wrote “The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.”

What does that mean – “You Can’t Go Home Again”

I always took it to mean that things and you change, and that you can never recapture the feelings you had in the past. It will always seem different.

Either that, or your parents have moved without leaving a forwarding address

But on a serious note, I recently saw how true those sentiments are.

This past spring my husband and I took a trip to the South.  Planning our trip, I wanted to stop by my home town in southern Illinois to see the house where so many of my childhood memories took place.  It was a small house with a white picket fence, a front porch with a swing and roses growing on a trellis behind the swing.

In this house I was given my first Bible as a birthday gift from my oldest sister.  One of my happiest Christmas memories occurred here.  Shopping with my mother, I had discovered a beautiful little kitchen set complete with dishes.  When I asked my mother if I could have that, she said, “Sorry, honey, but that is too expensive.  But maybe we could just get some dishes without a complete kitchen.”

That Christmas, after we had opened our gifts and I had my small set of dishes, the phone rang.  Some friends of ours had a little girl my age.   She had received two identical Christmas gifts.  Her parents wanted to know if they could share the extra gift with me.  Imagine my excitement when they brought the gift over – it was the very kitchen set I had wanted.

Other wonderful memories I shared with this little house:  playing “cowboys and Indians” in the back yard with my brother; sitting with all the family on the front porch and watching the 4th of July parade which came right by our house; mother’s great chicken dumplings dinner always followed by delicious pies.

Nearing my home town, it was clear that things were not as before.  Our house had been on the western end of town – just a few blocks from our street you were in the country.  But now, there was an interstate running west of town with hotels, restaurants and stores – all places we had never heard of 50 plus years ago.

  • McDonald’s
  • Wal-Mart
  • Cracker Barrel
  • Comfort Suites
  • Days Inn
  •  Instead of driving 4-5 blocks to reach my street, we drove and drove block after block before finally I saw it – 24th Street.  I was so excited as we drove down the street – looking eagerly for that white picket fence.

    But there was no white picket fence!!!

    As we got close to the block where my house was, I was appalled to see the terrible condition of the houses.  Instead of the neat yards I remembered, there was trash and junk cars, weeds were growing where once there had been flower beds.
    When we finally reached the house, I wanted to cry!  Instead of the little white house, I saw a house that had not been painted in years – now a dingy grey.  The porch was about to fall down.  There were no roses growing up the side of the porch and instead of a swing on the porch, there were garbage bags and piles of trash.
    As we pulled over to the side of the road and I took a closer look, memories of the past came flooding through my mind.  Sadly, I realized they were memories only – the past would not, could not ever happen again.  My parents and my brother were deceased, my sisters and I were way too old to ever sit on the kitchen floor and play “jacks” again.  And this poor old house – and this neighborhood – would never be the beautiful, peaceful place I had known as a child.
    Coming home and reflecting on this I realized how important it is to enjoy today – not looking back or looking forward, but enjoy TODAY!  I thank God for the memories of the past – but they are just that – memories.  I must never look so much at the past that I ignore the wonderful blessings  all around me today.  And I must never worry so much about the future that I miss the joys of today.

    The words of Apostle Paul speaks to not looking back:
    No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead,  I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.
    And E. M. Bound speaks so well on worrying about the future in his book, “The Necessity of Prayer
    When we pray, “Give us this day our daily bread,” we are, in a measure shutting tomorrow out of our prayer.  We do not live in tomorrow but in today.  We do not seek tomorrow’s grace of tomorrow’s bread.  They thrive best, and get most out of life, who live in the living present…Bread, for today, is bread enough.

5 thoughts on “You Can’t Go Home Again

  1. Great article well written. I went back to the second house i has memories up north in Ohio and it was torn down. It was my grandparents home and after they deceased my parents went to live in the home for a little while. lots of memories from that home but now its a empty lot. I like what you said about cherishing now!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.