Somebody once coined the phrase “you can’t go home again”. I have discovered that this is not true, for I have traveled there as recently as today.
When he was still living, Dad would reminisce. His colorful stories were of a first generation American Finn growing up in rural Upper Michigan. He told of summer days when he hung by his hands from the railroad trestle with Agate Falls roaring below and the daily train rumbling overhead. When the lumberjacks came to town, Dad and his brothers saw the barkeeps filch their money, claiming to the men that they had spent it all in their drunken revelry. The English-speaking kids would pick fights with the boys who spoke “funny” for Finnish was their first language as their parents had come to the New World from the Old Country. That just made them tougher Dad would say as he beat his fists against his solidly built chest and flexed his rock hard biceps.
Having now reached middle age, I, too, find myself looking back as well as forward. I contemplate where I come from as well as where I am. I think back to when life was safer and simpler. I think of the days when our family was together and it seemed as if life would never end. I hear my footsteps crunching as I walk home from the ice rink on a crisp winter’s night by the light of the full moon. I daydream of Missouri vacations at Grandma Johnston’s, once again breathing in the honeysuckle perfume, and watching fireflies flicker in the sultry southern dusk. Yes, there were sad times, too, but somehow, the shelter of youth protected us until the sharp edge of pain dulled with the passing of time.
In his poem “People”, the Russian poet Yevtushenko wrote:
“No people are uninteresting…
…Not people die but worlds die in them”
It is true that each of us has that world in our head where no one else can go. From all of the events that shape us, emerge the individuals that we are.
At this stage of my life I finally understand how wisdom comes only with having lived; that I, only by the grace of God, am still here. I have also identified the place where Dad used to go, where all of us can go, at times when we need to remember who we are.
And that place, I believe, is called ‘Home’.
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