I must admit that when I first heard Miranda Lambert say that you can’t go home again in The House That Built Me, I was not aware that the phrase was something people said. But since then I’ve heard it repeated on countless occasions although with never any sort of reasoning. So naturally, I wondered why. Fortunately for me, I had the chance to test this ambiguous sentiment a few years ago.
I went home again. Well, to be fair, the house that I got to go back and see after ten years away was not my home. It was the house that belonged to my father. Regardless, it was the place where I went to and from school. My place of residence, albeit temporarily, more or less.
The house had never been majestic. Yet, there were aspects of it that were grand. After all, I suppose it was fitting that we lived in a town called Grandpass. It was probably one of the larger houses in the neighborhood. I was told that people around town respected my father and his mother as residents of that house and before them, even my father’s father.
But when I got the chance to go back to see this house in which I spent a large portion of my childhood, it had fallen into decrepit ruin. The walls were barely visible beneath the soil and decay of age. The windows were boarded up. The garden was now occupied by weeds. Even the two iron gates that stood at the entrance were no longer a pair. Oh, how the mighty had fallen! What was once so grandiose was now commonplace, merely a house on a street, in a place. Time had robbed this grand old house of its identity, its purpose. Time seemed to have robbed it of everything. What lay behind was only a skeleton of what once was.
As we passed by, I could almost see her standing there upon that rusted iron gate staring out into the street, looking for her future. Me, at six or seven, wondering when I would get to see the world. I smiled when I saw her. I thought about how she had always wanted to travel. How she had spent so many afternoons resting her elbows on that iron gate wondering when it would be her turn. I wondered if I should tell her of all the places she’d get to see. Of all the experiences she’d get to live through. How her life was on the cusp of changing forever. But maybe it was better that she didn’t know. She was, after all, still a few years away from all that.
As the car stalled amidst traffic, our silent conversation through time ended abruptly. The boarded up windows stared back at me, warning me to resist the temptation to enter. You can’t go home again, they whispered sternly. As the car turned the corner and the house disappeared from view, I strained to keep her in my gaze knowing at that moment that it would be the last time I saw her. I would never see that house or her again.
I suppose beyond the practical impossibility of going back in time or reliving past memories, there is something to be said about wanting to be home again. Going back to a time when things were simpler, or more pleasant, or even happier. But, at least for me, going back to that place, going back to see her, was simply a reminder of who I was and where I came from. That was all. It was important for me to have seen what I saw that day. But not because I longed for the past. What I realized that night was that I had no desire to go home again. As much as time had ruined that house, time had improved me. Time moved on from those childhood days and it made me better. I was not her but she had become me.
I have no idea whether you can go home again or not. But for me, passing by that house, coming face-to-face with my childhood made me realize that I do not long for the past. I have no desire to relive it or go back in time to it. What matters most to me is looking ahead and moving forward. In that way, I’d like to eventually find a new place to call home.
I do not want to go home again. But someday I would like to be home again.