They say you can’t go home again. It’s my experience that sometimes you can, though it is certainly not for everyone. I was recently fortunate enough to be able to spend a week not only in my hometown, but in my home cottage where I was born and grew up.
Over the past 35 years I had dreamed about that place — mostly with my Mum, or in situations where we couldn’t find the key. (A recurring theme, since we never used to lock the door and therefore couldn’t find the key when we were getting ready to leave!) I never dreamed about returning as an adult.
It was the most random thing that occurred. I was walking by the house, my old cottage, the last time I was there in town. Whenever I travel across the pond, I’m always drawn to spend time there, like a homing pigeon, flying on instinct. I always pass my old cottage and peep in the windows, for old times’ sakes. I knew she had recently re-sold and I was curious if our old furniture was still there from the previous owners, who had ignored my requests for the old captain’s chair my parents had left behind.
This time, a lady was vacuuming. Ah. Ooh! Should I knock? Maybe she would let me see the place again? Maybe they might have plans to rent it out? Would that be weird? For some people, yes. For me, Queen of Nostalgia, it would, in some ways, put things to rights in my world. Losing my childhood home had never set right with me. I knocked on that old familiar door.
A lady opened the door in a somewhat guarded way. That made me feel as if she was from the city and not accustomed to being disturbed in this fashion. She didn’t invite me in, but she did tell me that the cottage could be rented out. I was a little bit exhilarated. I had never imagined this particular scenario. Maybe she thought I was a weirdo, as I endeavored to relate my story.
I talked it out with my people, my girlfriends, and we decided that it would be a super wonderful thing to rent this place. We had all spent chunks of time there in the past and this might be a rather special thing to do decades down the road, truthfully the year of our 60th birthdays. And so, 3.5 decades after I had been there for the last time, we rented the cottage.
Entering the familiar threshold was, truthfully, a bit overwhelming, euphoric even. I felt transported to another zone, a familiar yet unfamiliar arena of my former life. I had dreamed of being inside these walls again, but it had never quite felt like this. The cottage was, essentially, the same. She had the same doors, windows, thresholds, bones. OK, she also boasted central heating, a new kitchen design and other bits and bobs, but basically the cottage of my childhood was the same. It took about the whole week to soak all of this in; but I realized, after about day 2, that actually it wasn’t amazing anymore, or strange; it was just normal.
My mother’s best friend crossed the threshold of the cottage to come and enjoy dinner with us in the backyard on a lovely sunny evening and she immediately teared up. Since my mother had died 23 years ago nearly and it had likely been another 10 years or so on top of that since her oldest friend had seen her there, this was likely quite a momentous and emotional event.
The decades fell into one another, compounded into a big old pile and, all of a sudden, it was just a few days ago that we were all there. Time meant nothing. “I wasn’t expecting to feel this way!” Mum’s old friend exclaimed. “Actually, I wasn’t expecting to feel any of this.” And I don’t think any of us did.
We entertained others in our cottage. Though the art on the walls was different, the furniture and the vibe, the aura within those walls was the same. “How does it feel?” my friend asked me. I could only respond that it felt “thick,” as if all the spirits within the walls were still there timelessly waiting, transcending time and waiting for me to come back — an experience you can only describe if you go there.
It felt right to have people visiting and feasting within those walls as we always had. My oldest friend and I sat at the old table — not our old table, but one similar — and we worked on the story of our childhood together, a project we have been working on remotely between Oxford in England and Soledad in America and now we were together again. It felt so right to do it there as if the creative juices flowed particularly well in that space. In our youth, our houses were right next door to one another, and we spent days and weeks in and out of each other’s homes.
Now our families are depleted and our home ownership no more, we still felt as if we were young again and on the verge of some marvelous lives ahead.
They say you can’t go home again. I think I just did.