“You can’t go home again”


Coming home from deployment

“You can’t go home again”1. I completed a thirty month tour of duty in Hawaii and took home leave in route to Corpus Christi, Texas. My parents and sibling twins, brother and sister, greeted me at the airport. My other brother was in San Diego on active duty. In those thirty months, my father retired from the Navy and the twins graduated high school. The twins were not the gangly teenagers I remembered. After all of the hugs, kisses and welcome-homes, we drove to the house they bought the year before.


Old small house, new big house

The family lived in a small house in a rural housing development while I left. It had two bedrooms, living room and dining room – kitchen on the main floor. There were two small bedrooms and closet on the second floor. The basement partially finished. We pulled into the driveway of a stately three story house. This house was twice the square footage of the old house. Four bedrooms, two and one half baths, an open attic (without bedrooms) and the basement utility storage room. I wouldn’t have to share a bedroom in this house, oh joy!


There were other noticeable differences. Tiny front yard and a backyard that ran the length of a city block. We would never have worried about hitting the baseball over the fence in this yard. Except we would not have played ball here. The majestic spruce trees lining one side of the yard and fruit trees the other formed a corridor leading to the vegetable garden. This was not a yard designed for a pickup game of baseball. It was more suitable for horseshoes but we never played horseshoes at ‘my house.’

I didn’t mean to demean the new house but I missed my cozy old house. That house forced me outside to create secrets. Inside, conversations were whispered or everyone was privy to them. The staircase slid back to reveal the stairs to the basement. Brazen youth, my brothers and I loved the challenge of climbing it to our bedroom when it was back, nearly horizontal. We added a back porch on the old house. On summer days, my brother Cletus and I would parachute from the roof onto the soft sod below.

There was no need to go outside to create secrets in this large house. I could call out and no one hear me. The new house had two flights of stairs to climb to the bedroom. Fixed and no challenge to climb at any age. The new house had a porch with shrubs fronting it. No soft sod even if I dared jump off this one’s high roof. The new house had two redeeming features. I had a bedroom which I mentioned and the front porch I had no desire to jump from. The porch had a big wooden swing and screens to keep out bugs.


Talking on the porch

Most nights, my mother and I sat on the swing and watched the world go by as we chatted. We talked about the new house, the old neighborhood, new friends, old friends, her pride in her kids, her disappointment Cletus and I were not home more, and uncounted other things. We spent many hours in that swing. Sometimes, my father would join us on the porch, sometimes a sibling, or an uncle. Sometimes, but rarely I sat alone in the swing.

Too soon my leave was up and I had to move on to my next duty station. No, you can’t go home again if you expect it to be the same place as when you left. Even if there was no new house, the family had changed as had I. The talks were of memories of times past and about futures which would not be shared.

Writing this made me melancholy. My parents are gone and so are my three siblings. The house sold and the porch with its swing belongs to another family. I hope the swing makes memories for someone in that family as it did for me.

Do you agree that you can’t go home again? I would love to hear your thoughts. Share by leaving a comment.

  1. Thomas Wolfe wrote a book with this title.









  1. I think it all depends on your perspective. You can go to the place you called home, and as long as you don’t have an expectation of things being the same you’ll be fine. Having been in the navy, were you somewhat of a star when you returned? Was there an edge more respect for you? I can see how you’d miss a cozy home you were happy in, and that first trip back must have been a bit awkward. Perhaps you grew into yourself and became more comfortable?

    When I go back to my home town, I almost don’t recognize parts of it. The parts that haven’t changed much are the parts that I now appreciate more – all of the shops in downtown selling antiques or homewares. I suppose it’s easier for me because I wasn’t as happy where we lived before, so I don’t get nostalgic. I’m in a better place, as are most of my family. And, it’s a bit of a surprise to find that everybody is genuinely happy to see me.

    I can go home again, because we’ve made a better home for ourselves there. I wonder if that makes it all worth it.

    • Dwane

      This was 1972. Viet Nam demonstrations were going strong. I was a star with my family but society was less accepting. Perhaps that tainted my feelings. Everything was different – people and places.
      Treasure being able to go home to loved ones. I miss not being able to. Cousins, nephews and nieces do not replace parents and siblings in one’s heart.

    • Dwane

      I decided to write some of my posts to let my kids and grandkids know what my life was like before they knew me. My wife will make appearances shortly.

      There is a country song that I feel reflects my life. A young man is complaining about his life. A senior tells him “the highs will be higher than the lows low.” I hope that is true for everyone!

  2. Tiffany

    It’s nice to read your blog. I don’t know the house you lived in before leaving for the Navy, but I know the one you returned to. It was one of my favorite places as a child. I know the sense of not going home because I remember returning after Grandma had died. Everything had changed. Then Grandpa passed and the house moved on to another family. No chance of going back home then.

    My favorite Taylor Swift song (a reflection of my time) has a line, “I grew up in a pretty house and I had space to run, and I had the best days with you.” This is the life I want to create for my kids. Even growing up on a military base, a home I cannot return to, I know this was true for me.

    Keep writing. We’re reading. 🙂

    PS – MK has the porch swing. He said he’ll make a replica for me. It’d make a nice addition to my porch.

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