You Can’t Go Home Again…

Once you’ve left it’s never the same again. I lived by these tracks for years and now I only cross them when I go out of my way to do so.

This is our old place, I used to call it the “barn house.” When we moved in the top story was a different color than the rest of the house and the inside walls were what my mother called “puke” or “baby shit” green. We kept the claw-footed bathtub and my brother and I switched rooms midway through living here. I moved when I turned thirteen and my parents got a divorce. It looks slightly different than I remember it.

My mother used to have a large woodpile running along where that fence is. I would have to take the wheelbarrow out in between cartoons and Walt Disney movies to bring back loads of wood. I hated the splinters and the bugs but our house was always toasty in the winter and my parents didn’t complain about high energy bills. They might have and I just didn’t comprehend at the time but most of their fights were amusing. I would sit at the top of the stairs (sometimes all day) and wait for loud music to start or a door to slam. Once my mom even hit my dad in the balls with a cordless phone.

I loved playing in the yard and climbing in the trees. Mom used to make us work in the garden or stack wood but I have very fond memories of my childhood and of her. I loved the summertime when she would fill the inflatable pool. I always had a colorful beach towel even if we rarely got to go to the beach. We chased the ice cream man down when we heard his sirens. Once he stopped directly in front of our place. I loved the Mickey Mouse ice cream bars. One of my most fantastic dreams was watching an enormous Mickey shaped firework go off over my house.

We lived near the baseball diamond so we were treated to fireworks often. From either bedroom window I could see them light up the sky late during summer nights. My favorite view was right down Broadway. I convinced my mom to put my bed next to one of my two windows during most of my childhood. I loved looking at the moon, wishing on the stars. I’ve never lost that sense of amazement when glancing above, no matter where I may call home in the meantime.

The places I remember may change until they are unrecognizable and meaningless. Fortunately it is humans that make meaning of objects. The objects themselves care not of their meaning but merely exist. This is what separates us from what we possess (what we think we own). I’ve learned to think good of the past. The past with its muted yet intense color, its slightly off reasoning and memory and its sad golden tinge.

I think of Ingmar Bergman’s film Wild Strawberries when I try to recreate the fragmented and dreamlike state of my childhood mind. It is as if I am watching myself in a state of complete innocence with the disadvantage of knowledge I have gained through the distance of time. With knowledge can come misery and isolation. Things are not as simple as the street I played in when I was seven. My troubles will not melt like mice made out of vanilla ice cream or giant, hollow chocolate rabbits. My world doesn’t sit under a knotted apple tree, my dog won’t turn into a prince if I kiss him and I can’t remain in the kiddie pool, hell, I can’t even swim at the beach.

The beach I knew as a child is gone. Everyone stopped swimming at the state park because the water is so polluted. There aren’t any natural places that are safe and condoned for public use. I miss how things were at age six, we were just worried about fish peeing in the lake.

I know things haven’t just gotten worse. Knowledge is not an unwanted burden. The most wise advice I have is to try as much as possible to live in the present. I worry about my own future. I am obviously romanticizing my past but, I’m a writer. Bergman was a filmmaker which is just a visual extension of writing. It is the new way to tell a story and there are newer ways still each and every day.

Professor Isak Borg is confronted by his past through vivid and sometimes terrifying dreams. The film is visually interesting but its theme is what hit home with me. The way we remember ourselves and our own lives is not the way it happened exactly word for word. We miss a few words, lines, days, years. Things start to jumble together. We start to associate, loose the wonder we once possessed and eventually we grow old, weary and regrettably, cynical.  It is only when we can experience these memories without a sense of longing or wanting to do-over that sense can be made of experience and we can begin to treasure each new moment as it fades, becoming memory.

Thank you for listening to my thoughts on home, the philosophy of memory and for putting up with my taste in foreign & avant garde films from decades and decades ago :)

Further reading:

Wild Strawberries (1957) is a Swedish film written and directed by Ingmar Bergman, about an old man recalling his past. The original Swedish title is Smultronstället, which literally means “the wild strawberry patch”, but idiomatically means an underrated gem of a place (often with personal or sentimental value). –Wikipedia

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