“You can’t go back home … to places in the country, back home to the old forms and systems of things which once seemed everlasting but which are changing all the time …”
So concluded George Webber in Thomas Wolfe’s novel, You Can’t Go Home Again.
In the novel, Webber flees his small town and goes to New York, Paris and Berlin in search of himself. But ultimately he returns to America and rediscovers his home, only to realize that it — like he — will never be the same.
This story resonates for me because I’ve lived it: During my most recent trip to Paris, my home was destroyed. Our insurance helped us rebuild, but I knew at first glance it would never be the same.
“I’m 95% sure we’ll sell it,” I told my friends. I looked for work in Europe, and I culled my belongings in anticipation of The Big Move.
At first, the universe seemed to cooperate: With each obstacle — like finding the kitchen appliances walled into the back bedroom — I grew a bit more detached.
Plus, the mess seemed hopeless — and endless.
Then came the decisions, often with just a few hours’ notice. “Vat color paints?” our contractor would ask, in his rich Russian accent. We would look at swatches …
select trims …
and specify tiles … only to be told they weren’t available.
In search of substitutes, I’d often go to Home Depot at 6 a.m., where I’d find myself photographing the strangest objects, like a deranged tourist.
But in spite of the delays, the building went on.
Then the ceilings went it, and the new stairs …
… and finally, we saw our new doors and wood floors.
The refrigerator and the stove were moved out of the back bedroom …
… and on August 25, we moved back in.
The past seven months have likely been the most stressful of Esteban’s and my marriage. We’ve been exhausted, and we’ve been truly tested. But ultimately, through the process of rebuilding our home, we’ve also become reinvested. Looks like we’ll be staying in Minnesota for a little while longer …
Thomas Wolfe was right, of course: You can’t go home again. But at least I feel at home again.
Postscript: Although our plumbing, floors, walls, electrical wiring, fixtures, windows, doors, security system, and even our email addresses may be new, it’s still the same old neighborhood. Sigh.