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.
- Thomas Wolfe wrote a book with this title.