You Can Never Go Home Again.

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You can never go home again.

My favorite teacher wrote it in big letters on the board on the first day of my junior year of highschool. I had never gone anywhere long enough to really understand what she meant.  The words stuck (but just barely) in some forgotten crevice of my mind.

When I was seventeen I was a mirror of my peers. A reflection of my upbringing. A girl, wanting to be ninety miles an hour into adulthood. I had a happy home and good parents but like a lot of kids my age, I was ready for a little freedom. I wasn’t savoring anything, I was just reaching, reaching, reaching for what lie ahead.

You can never go home again.

I wasn’t listening. I was packing my bags for college. Cramming my favorite sweaters into a suitcase and throwing a pile of photos, bent at the corners, into a cardboard box. I would later tape them all over the mirror in my new dorm room. A reminder of the people, places and experiences that had carried me the past 18 years. I was so naive but the life lessons that came with my taste of liberty were coming hard and fast.

You can never go home again.

I started to feel it. I came home at Christmas and my bedroom was no longer a bedroom. It was now a den with a large tv and a comfortable couch. I didn’t have the sort of parents that forever sealed my bedroom off into a shrine to my youth. That wasn’t a bad thing necessarily, but the words written on the chalkboard flashed from that forgotten place and I thought maybe I was beginning to understand.

You can never go home again.

For real this time. I sat on a park bench in Pullen Park sobbing hysterically into a phone. My brother was on the other line. Across an ocean, in a room full of telephones on a military base in Iraq. Our parents were divorcing. I was 24. We’ll be ok. I love you. Be safe and come home soon.

You can never go home again.

I’m staring at a cell phone bill that I can’t pay. They’ve turned off my phone. I have twenty four dollars to my name for the next two weeks. I call work and ask to pick up an extra shift. I spend half of the few dollars in my account on a pizza and hope I’ll make enough to cover my bills at my waitressing job that weekend.

You can never go home again.

561 Baker Street. Second door on your right. Brent and I know no one. We slept on a single air mattress in the middle of our empty apartment for four days as we waited for our things to arrive from the East coast. There is no support system or safety net except my husband. I put myself out into the world in ways I never have before. Every face is potentially my new best friend. Every day I am lost on streets I don’t recognize, but oh, how I am found. I am found. Our world is long motorcycle rides and cold days at the gray beach and thawing ourselves in the sun at Golden Gate park and Sundays at St. Cyprians and Thursday nights around the monsterous dinner table in Celia’s dining room drinking wine and laughing.

You can never go home again.

The weight of two children lay over me as they laugh hysterically. Everly’s neck meets my nose and I wrap my arms around her so that I can hold her still long enough to breath her sweet smell in a little longer. I watch Arlo’s slow breath while he sleeps and I whisper thank you into the darkness.Brent and I spend nights facing one another in our poorly lit kitchen trying to wrap ourselves around the situation. How did we get here so fast? Real grown ups. No longer just pretending. With a mortgage and two children and to-do lists that could bury us if we let them. We feel exhausted often. Somehow the freedom we sought for so long feels like it came and went. But we’re no longer reaching, reaching reaching.

Because we are home.

We found it. We’re in different roles than we were before, but we are here again. There are parents and there are children and there is goodness. With this knowledge, I cling desperately to every inch of Everly and Arlo’s childhood. I count each day slowly because I know how these things go. I know the lessons that will await them too. The inevitable change of growing up - how hungry they will be to race ahead. So Brent and I dig our heels in. We hold hands and we brace ourselves against time.

At some point, we all leave and we learn the hard lesson that in life, you can never go home again. Not to the place you were. But you also learn to take all the best and hardest parts of your past and you build again. You find your shelter. It’s the infinite loop of discovery that we all travel. You spend years thinking you can never go home and one day you look up and realize you are already there.

Love,

Melissa