Can you ever go home?

posted in: Other | 15

infants 56I’ve just been over at Pauline Baird Jones’s blog, where she wrote a post entitled You can go home again. It’s a fun read, that got me thinking.

Did I agree?

No. No, I don’t think you can. Going home – really going home – is time travel and we don’t yet have a time machine. Let me explain.

I returned to Perth, Western Australia, the city where I grew up, after an absence of eight years or so since my last visit. And much longer since I lived there. I left in 1996, not long after my mother died. In 2013 we were on a road trip around Australia that included a short visit to Perth. We’d been up in the north west, driving down the coast road from Geraldton into Perth. I wrote about that experience in a post I called the world has continued to turn.

At the station“Home” wasn’t the same place, and I wasn’t the same person. We visited the little cottage in Shenton Park where my family lived for a few years in the 1950’s. I was nearly eight when we moved to the other side of the river, to a new suburb. The memories I had of Shenton Park were those of a small child. As Pauline said, the streets looked smaller, the distances shorter, and time has slowed down over the years. That house south of the river where my mother lived for thirty years burnt down a couple of years after she died, so I can’t go there anymore. The neighbourhood has changed but I went to look at the primary school and wondered why I’d thought it was a long walk from home. The extensive bushland that surrounded the school is suburbia now. I used to walk along the sandy tracks looking for wild flowers in spring. And the pine plantation a little further away is gone, too. The river’s still there, of course. But it’s not easy to get to the little beach next to Canning Bridge where I whiled away many a hot summer day. I’ve heard, too, the sweet little river prawns we used to catch in drag nets on hot summer nights are gone, fished out. No, for me Perth is a different city to the one in my memory banks.

Then there was Amsterdam. I left when I was four and I have few recollections of my childhood. Snapshot glimpses of a month-long sea journey. Rocking horses in the ship’s kiddy playground. Brief excursions into Port Said or Aden. Amsterdam? Just memories formed from faded black and white or sepia photographs. Me in the Oosterpark, a place I was taken to frequently. I returned to the city of my birth for the first time in 1990. It was fascinating, I loved it, but I had no feeling of being ‘home’. I’ve been back several times since, and that hasn’t changed. I’ve stood outside the flat where I was born and felt nothing – except maybe a recognition of how lucky I am to live in Australia. Amsterdam’s a great place to visit – but I wouldn’t want to live there.

How about you? Have you ever tried to go home?

By the way, one of those kids in that photo up top is me. Any takers on which one? I might give away a book.


15 Responses

  1. Kira Morgana

    I went “home” a few years back, when my son was younger and my oldest daughter a toddler. We were there for a couple of days to attend the wedding reception of someone who used to be my best friend at high school.

    The town was the same. My mum lives in a different place now so we had to meet her in the park where I used to while away hours by reading under a tree… the park was the same, but I wasn’t.

    The Wedding Reception was stuffed full of familiar faces. Most of the kids that I’d been ignored by as a teenager were there as adults. And yes, they ignored me again. I had no connections with anyone. Even the tentative connections with the bride and her bridesmaids (my other best friend and someone who I used to talk to a lot) were so thin that they almost broke.

    Home is where the heart is. My heart isn’t where I grew up anymore. Even if I could live anywhere in the world, I wouldn’t return there.
    The place I get homesick for is where I went to Uni and even that is fading now. The place that I want to be is with the family I have created for myself.

    You can’t GO home. You carry it with you; it’s where you are at that very moment.

    • Greta

      That’s the thing, isn’t it? The place has changed, and so have you.

  2. Jo Skehan

    I have recently returned home to Qld – I was born here and lived in various towns and cities of the state until I married and lived in Sydney for a year. From there it was 7 years in NZ (the South Island) before returning to settle in Perth where I lived for 30 odd years and loved every minute of it.
    We left Perth for Victoria where I will never call home. In spite of the 9 yrs or so we lived there it never felt like home to me.
    Going back to Perth was an option but I felt the strong pull of Qld more, so we moved up here.
    We love it and are very happy here. My hometown is not home though to me anymore. Our parents’ homes have gone to make way for apartments and a shopping centre. The town is inhabited by people from all over Australia and beyond for the work there and nearby in the mines.
    I call Perth ‘home’ even now. I think if I had to make the move I would be more than happy to return as I will always love the city even though last time I visited in 2012 it had grown so much. It still had the home vibes for me.

    • Greta

      Of any city Perth is ‘home’. But for me, it’s the memory of what it was, and I was, all those years ago. I’m content with where I am.

  3. Eva Caye

    Great post. I have no place I call my hometown, since I’ve lived in like 20 places.

    Second from left in the front row.

  4. MonaKarel

    Similar to Carmen, I’ve lived all over. I did not come ‘home’ until we moved here. I might be convinced to move to New Zealand but I’m not sure I can meet their size requirements.

  5. carmen webster buxton

    Interesting. I was born in Honolulu because my father was in the US Navy. We moved every two or three years, so I grew up in lots of places– Monterrey, California, and Whidbey Island, Washington, on the Pacific coast, Boston, Annapolis, and Virgina Beach on the Atlantic coast, and finally, once Dad was out of the Navy, central Texas.

    If I ever won a huge amount of money, I would love to travel to all the places I have lived to see what they’re like now. But I wouldn’t think of visiting them as “going home:” because home is where my family is. That’s what constant moving taught me. Home is not a specific place, it’s wherever the people who love you are.

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