Only Memories Linger

“Home is people. Not a place. If you go back there after the people are gone, then all you can see is what is not there any more.”

― Robin Hobb

When I wrote “High School Memories” yesterday, I said how I wasn’t going to my 50th class reunion this weekend. I didn’t say why, because at the time I really didn’t know why. I’d used the excuses of the expense of flying back to Arlington for only three or four days, the fact that my wife couldn’t go because she has her job and it’s a busy start of the school year in her library (and I really didn’t want to go without her), and the fact that, after fifty years, the people I’d be seeing were “friends” I fleetingly shared a common experience with but have had no connection with since. All valid reasons, but I had the underlying feeling that none of them fully explained why I didn’t really want to go.

Then this morning I read a post (“It’s What We Do”) from a fellow blogger, Stuart Perkins, (storyshucker.wordpress.com). His story of vacationing on the beach as a kid on the Chesapeake Bay with his family and cousins is eeriely like my family’s vacationing history, and evoked in me so many memories about family.

Then I stumbled upon the above quote and it explained everything. 

If I went, I could also possibly have met up with the few cousins that still live in the D.C. area, but while we’d have more to talk about, childhood family stories to reminisce about, in truth, they are only just a little more than those school-days friends, the difference only being kinship, the only times I’ve seen any of them over the years since I moved to California has been when I went back for weddings and funerals. And I could have spent precious time with my one dear sister who still lives there. For missing that opportunity, I now kick myself in my own arse.

But what I now realize as the real reason for not going back is what I shared with my siblings that last night together there last summer after Mom’s funeral, when I said that now that she and Dad are both gone, I have no reason to ever come back – the only thing there now are memories of family past and Arlington is no longer “home”, it’s just a place I once knew.

Maybe the day will come when I won’t feel so sad about their absence and I can go there again just to enjoy the monuments and museums. Maybe again to Ocean City where, as a family we spent so many fun weeks on the beach, the boardwalk, and in the ocean. Maybe again back to the mountains and Douthat where we and all the aunts and uncles and cousins stayed and played every summer, on the beach, swimming, fishing and boating, catching salamanders, all the many cousins together in one cabin every night while the adults played canasta together in one of the other cabins.

Maybe.

But just now, if I went back, all I’d see is what is not there any more.

– Bill

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