“So, we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”
(Final sentence of The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald [ISBN-13: 978-0-7432-7356-5])
I’m somewhat embarrassed to admit that I waited until the age of 62 to first read that classic novel.
And, as luck would have it, I read this last sentence on the very night that I had done a real estate closing which required me to meet the other paralegal in the village where I grew up.
After the closing, I decided to drive through the little village, eventually passing the street my childhood house was on. Frankly, I was shocked at how dilapidated and dirty the buildings and streets looked. I certainly don’t remember them being like that when I was little. By the time I got to my childhood street, I was too depressed to even drive past the house I had lived in with my parents and brothers.
Not that the neighborhood I live in now is that much different. It’s in a town rather than a village, but both are suburban. Probably when my kids come home, they think the same thing I did: “OMG, I grew up in THIS house?!”
Can you ever really return to your childhood? Everything looks so much bigger and brighter to children. As adults, we view everything through eyes that have seen both the worst and the best.
I remember being sick as a toddler and my mom taking me to the doctor. The doctor seemed to me like a huge and intimidating man. As an adult, I got sick and went back to the same doctor, and only then realized he was actually shorter and thinner than I am and quite personable.
As a child, I had my own bedroom (a real treat in the 1950s when the post-war-built houses were all so small). I remember thinking the 10’ x 12’ room was palatial and glamorous. Now I own a whole house and yard, and consider it merely cozy, and never mind what I would call my decorating scheme after raising 3 kids and 3 dogs, along with assorted other critters.
As a child, I thought my parents had unlimited funds, and I could never understand why I couldn’t have that doll/game/toy that I wanted right now. Many decades later, I understand completely.
As a child, it never occurred to me that my mother wouldn’t always be there to help me through difficult times. As a child, it never occurred to me that I, myself, might someday become ill and die. As a child, I would never have accepted either scenario. Maturity has brought me an understanding and acceptance of both illness and death.
Would I ever want to return to my childhood? Possibly. But only for a short day-trip. I don’t miss the insecurity of childhood. I don’t miss having no real say in daily activities, meals, bedtime or bathtime. And while I admit it was nice having a mommy to take care of me, I much prefer standing on my own two feet and overcoming my own obstacles.
Sometimes memories are best kept as memories. I doubt that I will revisit my little village again any time soon.
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Images by: Duane Romanell, and Sharyn Morrow, and Alice Popkorn, respectively
I recently went back to my home town and decided to take a “tour” of my old stomping grounds. The house I grew up in had suffered a fire and been torn down. In a crowded neighborhood, there now stands a weed-filled lot that looks nowhere big enough to have held that house and my memories. The entire block is dilapidated, and I started thinking maybe I should get out before trouble finds me. All around, blight has moved in, safety has moved out. *sigh*
Oh, I’m sorry to hear that. At least my old home is still standing, although I did decide not to look at it that day. Maybe just as well.
Some years ago I drove by the house where I grew up. It is in a city about 800 miles from where I am now so visits are rare. When I was a kid my Dad built our house on a dead-end dirt road so far out of town that it was considered rural – no buses, no water, no sewer. I and my cohorts wandered the woods playing cowboys and Indians, catching frogs in the ponds, building tree forts. Now it’s a paved subdivision with few trees and closer to downtown than it is to the city limit. There are no ponds, no forests, no frogs. Just pavement and concrete and manicured lawns. That past is gone – I felt a bit like I figure Jeffery did when he saw the vacant lot. The property may still be there but the essence is gone – the world reconfigured and moving forward.
Great post CM. Thanks!
Yeah, the world does tend to move forward despite us. Good response – if you ever want to do a guest post for me on this subject (or another), just let me know. Bet you have lots of good stories you can share.
The house I grew up in was, at some point, turned into a commercial property and now houses an architectural firm’s offices. I sure hope they did something about that dark, dank, scary, spider-filled basement.
The office I work in used to be a residence. Lots of the City houses here have been turned into commercial properties. Our office building still has a dark, dank, scary, spider-filled basement – I try to avoid it at all costs!
PS: Thanks for reading this one – I think I was a little over your 1,000 word limit. 🙂
No even close. You had fewer than 600 words on this post. Lots of room to spare!
Yeah, I just checked and you’re right. But it sure seemed longer when I was writing it!
I haven’t been back to where I first lived for more than 40 years. I think where we grew up is so wrapped up in HOW we grew up, and I think it would make me sad to go back to those places. When I go to visit my mother, back east in PA, she lives in a different part of the city than where we did when I was growing up.
I think it will take the rest of my life to sort out how I feel about my childhood, and how it affected the adult (well, sort of adult) I am now. I keep swimming forward.
Pass the cuppycakes.
Lovely post, BTW.
Aw, hope I didn’t make you sad, although if I drove you to cuppycakes, I’m OK with that.
I’ll use any excuse to have some cuppycakes, if you haven’t figured that out already.
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Nicely put – as usual. Nostalgia is nice to visit, but we can’t live there.
The trees and property are completely changed, and my childhood home is now the house/office of a chiropractor. 😦
Well, at least the chiropractor probably maintains it, but it’s still unnerving to see your childhood home turned into something other than what it was (and in such a short time, too. 🙂 )
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