Every once in a while I go back home – the home that the author Tom Wolfe says you can’t go to again, the one I left forty odd years ago – and I’m always amazed at how things have changed, and in my head I have a sort of visual timeline going on where I see what is in front of me now, and then beneath it I have the memories of all the changes in that place that I recall.
But this past week I’ve done the same thing in the town I’ve lived in since I left the old home town. This has been my home for most of my life now. I raised my kids here, wrote my first book here (and most all the rest since), and I would say that I pretty much know it like I know the back of my hand.
Except this week we’ve had a son and his family here visiting. He hadn’t been back in seven years. And a lot has happened in seven years even in a place that moves as slowly as the midwest. I know that intellectually, but it took visiting the ballpark and the swimming pool, taking my grandkids to the aquarium and museum, going out on the Mississippi and seeing all the riverfront development from a whole new angle, doing all those “tourist” things I never ordinarily do – to appreciate my town all over again.
The first time I visited Vienna, some thirty years ago now, we stayed with friends who spent a couple of weeks showing us all the sights – touristy and not-so-touristy – and near the end of our visit, one of our friends said how much she’d enjoyed seeing Vienna through a newcomer’s eyes, showing off her city because she ordinarily took it for granted.
I realized what she meant again this week. I’m not usually a visual person. I like sounds as much as I do sights. When I write, I often have to call upon my husband or a friend who has been in the same place to remind me of the visual details of what I’ve seen because I don’t register them at first. That’s also true of where I live.
But this week, showing my town – and the place my son grew up – to his five and seven year old children, I found that, like my friend, I was enchanted with all the things I saw, as if I were really seeing some of them for the first time (knowing me, maybe I was!).
I felt the same way when I finished writing Last Year’s Bride for Tule Publishing’s Montana Born series in the spring. It had been a dozen years since I’d written a cowboy hero. Prior to that I’d written close to twenty. They were there, in the back of my mind, ever since. But I didn’t get to see them again – up close and personal – until this year. And it felt like coming home, seeing the past and the present through wide-open eyes. Makes me eager to do another one.
Have you “gone home” again? Or looked at your own environment as a newcomer might? Or showed to it someone you wanted to love it as much as you do?