Wednesday, August 8, 2012

You Can Never Go Home Again

This is me, your blogger Kate, relaxing, before our trek back home.
My two sisters Karen and Caroline chatting before we leave for our grueling trek back to the place where we grew up.
My youngest sister Cyndi--moments before we leave for our trip back to South __________.

My sister Cheryl relaxing before our pilgrimage back to our hometown.

        You can never go home again.
How many poets, authors, and I guess people who are a lot smarter than me have said that?
So why didn’t I listen?
No, instead, I talked my four sister, my four wild sisters into pilgrimaging back to our hometown--a tiny no nothing town in New Jersey--yes, Bruce Springsteen land--no, we’re not on the Jersey shore but close enough to it --yeah--to revisit our old haunts because it was the tenth anniversary of our father’s death--and we wanted to somehow pay tribute.  
We would visit the house we’d grown up in, the church we’d attended as kids, the school we’d gone to, and the cemetery that now held the remains of our parents.  
So we met at my sister’s house, piled into my other sister’s car--which was big enough to hold all of us--and set off for lunch--our first stop.  Food to nourish the soul and to give us time to plan our itinerary.  
We decided to go to ______ Diner, which was still there.  Thank God.  Because, of course, I was already dreading that so many things would be different . . . changed since we’d last been to South _________.  So we pulled up --anticipating the food would be less than, well, perhaps a little too GREASY.
        Determined to ignore that aspect, we each ordered some type of sandwich because every sandwich came with--and had come with for over 50 years--cucumber salad and coleslaw.   This is the traditional appetizer that we longed to eat.
The waitress arrived and plopped the cucumber salads down. 
       My first disappointment.  
I wasn’t going to say anything, but then I couldn’t hold it in. 
“It’s disgusting.  They put the cucumber salad in plastic cups.  It’s come to this.”

Disappointed, that the cucumber salads were encased in plastic!
           The fact that it tasted different didn’t even matter.  It was those plastic cups.
We, somehow, made it through the meal.  
My sister Karen tried to cheer us up.  “Let’s go visit Sacred Heart.”
She meant the Church and the school we went to as kids.  A private Catholic school that, unfortunately, had closed the year before.  The building was still there, but it had been taken over by someone else.  We drove half a mile from the diner into the parking lot, parked the car, stared at the school, which looked the same, ignored the new owner’s sign, and then went into the Church.  Safe haven?  At least the Church was still the same.  

The school we attended as kids was still there, but now there are new owners.  I discreetly didn't capture the new owner's sign in my photo.  

The Church we attended as kids.

Or so we thought.
       Inside, we winced when we saw that the pews we used to sit in, on the left side of the church, had been removed to make way for the Choir.  
        Here’s my memory.  Every Sunday we’d pile into the car, go to the bakery, then park on the street near the Church, enter in through the side door at exactly 9:20 for the 9:30 mass.  But now the pews were gone.  

My sisters sitting in church, trying to ignore the missing pews to the left of them.  

My sister Cheryl broke the silence.  “Let’s go home.”  She meant it was time to visit our childhood home.  My other sister Caroline chimed in, “And let’s drive around to the back of the house and see what they did to the back yard.”  She meant the new owners.
We had a plan.
We drove the route we used to walk as kids.  It was only a mile, but it had seemed much longer than that when you’re in grade school and have to walk through rain and snow.  
The house we used to live in had been sold years ago when my mother died.  It looked completely different.  We parked one house away and stared at it.  I took a picture.  Then we drove around to the back, where there used to be woods, where we played as kids.  The town had now built a park.  We drove through and parked the car.  It started to rain, but we didn’t care.  Now, like peeping toms, we snuck up and surveyed our old back yard. 
My memory of our yard: Hedges surrounded the yard.  There was a giant oak tree.  A sand pile with swings.  A pool.  A garden.   
Now the yard was small--so small.  Someone had removed the giant oak tree.  There was no pool or garden.  Only grass.  Just grass.   And a tall white fence replaced the hedges.  
We climbed back into the car in silence.  
We have three brothers.  One is a captain of the police department in our hometown.  We stopped on a whim and by some miracle he was in the parking lot, leaving to go home.  I told him about the missing oak tree and he said maybe it had been hit by lightning, and they’d been forced to take it down.  Maybe.  But still . . . and by this time the tree was an historic tree in my own mind and even if it had been hit, it should have been left there as a memorial to . . . well . . . Seeing him buoyed our spirits.

Our brother Matt took this photo of us, posed in the parking lot of the police station.  

Then it was onto the cemetery.  My mom and dad are laid to rest--side by side--in the mausoleum.  I always say the same thing when we come to visit as a group.  I repeat what my youngest sister Cyndi said so many years ago when my mother died.  “It isn’t fair,” she said.  “You had her for so much longer than I did.”  
“Do you remember what you said, Cyndi, when mommy died?” 
She nods.  

The mausoleum where my mom and dad are laid to rest.  

The one thing we don’t talk about this time is the dream we all had about a year after she died.  We all dreamed that she came back to our childhood home and knocked on the front door.  She came to visit for a day.  She came back from heaven for a day because we’d all said--if we could only have her for one more day, we’d be happy.  
Then we all had the same dream.  
You can never go home again, or rather you should never go home again.  
Let the memories stay as they were.  
Those childhood memories shouldn’t be disturbed.  
I write novels for a living.  In Wild Point Island, my heroine--Ella Pattenson--returns to her childhood home with her sister, Lily, to rescue her father from imprisonment.  Twenty years have passed since she’s been on the island.  But when she arrives at her childhood home, everything is the same.  There’s not even dust on the furniture.  
That’s my fantasy.  
Somehow, there would be a way to do that--to return to your childhood home, and it would look exactly the way you left it.  
Wouldn’t that be lovely??

           Wild Point Island, a paranormal romance, is available from and Barnes and in paperback and ebook formats.  

No comments: