My dad came into town for Thanksgiving weekend and we decided to take a drive out into Long Island to visit my childhood home.
I don’t have many memories of my childhood, but the few I have are clear as day. I remember playing in my yard on summer days. I remember my best friend down the street (Brian Rhymer, though I might be butchering the spelling of his name). I playing in the park behind our house, our German Shepherd dog (Princess), the red picnic table we had in our back yard. To this day, I can still draw a floorplan of the house, from memory. There’s a lot I remember. At least, through seven-year-old eyes compounded with the hazy glaucoma of memory.
The cliché is that everything is so much smaller than we remember it as children. After all, we’re remembering things from a vantage point much lower to the ground, when the whole world was huge and new. And it was no different in this case.
The massive yard that had been the field for so many imagined battles had been replaced by a small patch of grass. The big kitchen windows that looked out into yard somehow managed to shrink themselves over the last twenty-seven years. And the street so wide it was nigh-uncrossable was now barely a road.
Though we met the current owners and chatted with them for a while out front, I’m actually glad they were on their way out and didn’t invite us in. If the exterior had changed so jarringly over the years, I’d rather not think about the home therein. The outside is just the skin. It’s the heart that matters. And I’d rather keep my memory of it the way that it is.
You can never go home again, as the other cliché goes. Houses change. Neighbors move or pass away. And in the end, the only “home” you really have to go back to is the one in your memories. The one that will always be the same.
The tragic catch being that you can only ever visit it by yourself.