A sentimental Let’s Play.

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It’s winter, so humor me.

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I’ve only been back to my hometown in New Jersey once in the last 38 years. Why so long between visits? Because as much as my husband loves to travel, New Jersey is never his vacation destination of choice. Go figure.

But in the fall of 2014 after my mother passed, I made the decision to spread half of her ashes at Sandy Hook Beach…. the seashore she loved.

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It was a bittersweet trip for me, filled with childhood memories and many, many tears.

We spent a week in and around my hometown and while some things had changed, I was amazed at how much had remained exactly the same. We walked through the park where I played as a child..

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Wandered around the downtown area…

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Where, admittedly… some buildings had gotten brighter.

We ate in the same restaurants I did when I was young, visited my elementary school and the railroad station where I caught the train to NYC.

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We even strolled among the deer at the cemetery searching for my great grandfather’s grave.

And after putting it off as long as I could, it was time to visit my old house. I was reticent to do this, knowing I would probably break down at the mere sight of it.

We strolled the neighborhood past my Aunt Florence’s house…

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And then past my grandmother’s house.

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It was a beautiful old place when I grew up….

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But as I stood in front of it with my old photo album, choking up with memories… I was awed at the magic the current owners had wrought.

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Long story short… the owners saw me, took pity on my emotional state and invited us in for the grand tour. I wish I’d taken pictures of the interior ( it was lovely! ) but didn’t want to look some crazed stalker (as opposed to the crazed blogger who would later post about it).

I was a bit of a mess at that point…. memory lane can be a sad place when all your loved ones are gone. But we soldiered on down the road to the house where I grew up.

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The front looked relatively the same…

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But when we turned the corner and I peered around back, everything had changed.

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Two large additions had been built which swallowed our back lawn, the glassed in porch with the beautiful polished slate floor had been removed, the brick patio torn up and my father’s lovingly tended rose garden had been turned into a playground.

My husband asked if I wanted to knock on the door, but I couldn’t. To be honest, I could hardly breathe at that point.

And though the old saying ‘you can’t go home again’ is trite? It’s also very, very true.

I had to walk. And made it as far as the little park down the road that runs along the river…

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While parts of it were overgrown…

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I managed to find a bench in the same spot as the bench where my father and I used to sit and feed the ducks when I was a child.

It was there that I completely broke down and sobbed for my recently lost mother and my long lost father.

I knew going back to my hometown would be hard, but damn. I was an emotional wreck the whole time.

So tell me, have you ever gone home again?

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68 thoughts on “A sentimental Let’s Play.”

  1. One slow day at work, I looked up everywhere I had lived to see if the houses were still there. The farm I grew up on had been turned into an entire neighborhood; and, the military housing I’d lived in was gone. But, the converted garage I’d lived in was still there and it was still being rented. The world never stops turning, which is a relief to those of us who like sunlight…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I went home just last year. My house looked pretty much the same. The basketball goal that my dad and I put up was still there. I also went by my friends houses. That’s where I got choked up. One was abandoned and one had been torn down and a dentist office was there instead.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I have become so good at moving on that I can drive by my childhood home, a small bungalow that housed up to 9 people at times, knowing that it is not kept as well as my mother kept it and not feel any emotions. The house itself is a place I never miss.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Your homes were huge and beautiful, I love your neighborhood. Sounds like a very emotional visit for you. Hugs.

    I live in AZ, grew up in PA. The homes were large, with cellars and attics. Lots of steps, leading to 4-5 layers of floors. My grandpa’s home even had a wine cellar. And the other grandpa had a bomb cellar. As soon as I’d open the cellar door, a wave of musty, laundry, basement odor, hit my nose. So long ago. I drew the rooms and furniture the best I could recollect years ago so I don’t forget. 🤗🤔😍

    Liked by 1 person

  5. My parents sold their beautiful home and moved to a 2 bedroom in a Senior Housing. I go see THEM a lot. But my old house? Looks the same as it did. I drive by it. I haven’t stopped in.

    I’m lucky enough to have both my parents yet. I dread the day I don’t.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. We lived in section 8 subsidized housing, Navy base housing and the cheapest rental units we could find until I was sixteen. Then we bought a place in the crappiest town in GA. My life didn’t really start getting good until 1984 or so. At this point I’m way ahead of all that.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. That’s true. Weaverville is a nice little town, but it’s the love I found and the love that found me that made it special. So yes, for the first time in my life, I have a hometown.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. I have four houses I grew up in which I have visited many times. None of them have hold any nostalgia for me, though the areas are filled with memories. I spent as much time away from “home” as I possibly could. Two adults, ten kids at first, but too soon only 1 adult. My mother died when I was 8 or 9. That changed a mean man into a monster. No reason to want to have those memories. But siblings and friends, I remember what we did, happy and sad, and horrible. By the time I escaped on my 16th birthday I had experienced almost every feeling there was to experience, except love and sex. (Yes, my mother loved us all, but I wasn’t really old enough to understand what that love meant. And now I can barely remember.)
    It is all water over the tracks now, I can look back and see goodness along with the horror, but at the time, well, most things are better left unsaid.
    The areas, they haven’t changed much, except the farmhouse where I first lived is now used as a granary, and the nearby town has a population of under 100. The second house, which was on the outskirts of Winnipeg, has been so renovated and added to I cannot see in it the house where I lived. There are no play areas there anymore, just concrete and twice as many houses. Third house, the one where we lived when my mother died, looks exactly the same except the paint job. No reason to want to go inside. The fourth house, well, at least the trees were still standing last time I went back, but the house had been torn down and a new one built in its place. No loss there.
    The question is, though I now live far far away, why, when I am in Winnipeg (not all my siblings left), do I feel the need to go look? I think it is just to remind myself how for I have come. Not economically, but mentally and spiritually. All those experiences, good and bad, help construct the person I am today. It was a tough road but a good teacher. I would not recommend that path for anyone…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think my husband has similar memories, most best left unexplored. He was one of nine kids with an alcoholic father. He left at 17 and never looked back. While I wish he could have had a lovely childhood like mine, the hardships made him who is, and that’s the person I love.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Some survive. Many don ‘t, and they are the people I feel most for, but even moreso for their children. Congratulate him on his survival, please.
        The thing about my father, he had maybe two beers a year. He did what he did all on his own. At least if he been sent to a Residential School, I could start to understand. What happened to him, I will never know.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Half my brothers made horrible fathers, but only one who was near as bad. So far as I know, his grandchildren seem to be okay, but I am not in touch with all of them.

        Like

  8. What an amazing town and homes. I love that you lived so close to your Grandmother and Aunt. How long did you live in that house? Your entire childhood?
    My first home I lived in until I was 12; I’ve gone by it many times when we visit the east coast and it is even dumpier than when we lived there. After that we lived in rental apartments until I moved in with my Dad at age 15; I’ve gone by that house before too and it looks decent. The town has gone to crap though, so I really don’t miss it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My town is a wealthy suburb and has maintained it’s charming old world feel. My father’s family were the original settlers and that farmhouse still stands. Sadly my grandmother died when I was an infant, but my two aunts were just down the road. I lived there until my father retired and we moved to Maine. I was 14, and he died a year later.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I’ve revisited four of my five boyhood homes (one no longer exists). I only knocked on the door of the one (in another state) of which I have the most fond memories. No one was home. Amazingly, the old neighborhood looked exactly as I remembered it decades ago. I didn’t shed a tear at the time of my re-visit, but I am holding back tears now as I write this.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know my emotions were on the edge as I had just lost my mother, but it was memories of my father that flooded in when I walked my childhood streets. The heart is a funny thing, and there’s no time limit on grief.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Once, I went back inside my childhood home when it was up for sale? It was weird as, they blocked off the door to the Attic that used to scare me.
    After reading this, I am going to Google some of my old addresses and see what comes up.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Funny how the reality never matches the mental image. We moved a lot so I am divided as to where hometown is. One was post war southern California in a working class subdivision. My visit there thirty years later was a surprise. My grandfathers garage/gas station was a bodega. My house that I thought was big was a cinderblock shanty.
    We later moved to the Great Divide on the Colo/New Mex border. It was a railroad town, bleak, austere, fly ash from coal locomotives and home furnaces everywhere. I wasn’t aware of the poverty of beauty in both places as a child. The town looks better now that much of the RR is gone and natural gas heats the houses. But quaint – it ain’t

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I made a point of visiting my childhood home just before I left for the other side of Canada. Just like you said, very emotional. I did not ask to go in, just skirted the property. And a few years prior I visited a friend who was renting a bungalow….I was overwhelmed with memories and emotions and I couldn’t figure out why until I realized it had the exact floor plan of the first home my ex and I bought…it even had the same kitchen linoleum. I was struck by how the subconscious part of my brain recognized it before I was conscious of what was triggering all the feels. Powerful stuff happens when you go home again.

    Deb

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I’ve seen photos of the house I grew up in, well the one that’s still standing. Friends were on vacation and stopped to snap a pic. As for going back to my small town for non-estate stuff, only 3 maybe 4 times in 25 years. There’s not much there for me anymore.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Your hometown is just beautiful River. And although things changed, the memories remain the same and those are something no one can take away form you. I go back to my hometown every time I go to see my parents. They still live in the home I grew up, but the neighborhood is growing and changing around my childhood home. I can’t even imagine what will happen to my parents home when they aren’t around anymore. They own their house but not the land it’s built on…..yes, long story. I think I’ll post the story on my blog.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. “Home” is very fluid when you’re an Air Force brat, but twice I took road trips to Ohio and walked up to the front door of the house where we lived for three years. The first time, nobody answered. The second time – just last year – they answered, but didn’t invite me in when I shared my story, as I’d been hoping. Not that I blame them; stranger on the porch, COVID still a thing.

    I did walk around the neighborhood and through the woods where I used to play, though. Pure nostalgia trip. I highly recommend it.

    Oh, and one more fun side note: I visited my old elementary school, which had been turned into a senior living facility. And was supposedly HAUNTED, according to a few of the residents I spoke to while wandering the halls. That was fun!

    Liked by 1 person

  16. You made me cry.

    Not so long ago I did go to one of the many homes we had, the one I lived in longest I guess, but also the site of unhappiness. I think I was chasing a childhood I had lost, trying to retrieve some parts of my splintered soul. I’m still in bits and in between.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. It was the “memory lane is a sad place when all your loved ones are gone” bit. My father’s 82 and in decline, same goes for my mum. Yes, I’m lucky to still have them, but we’re still pretty dysfunctional – and I don’t have anyone to support me when they’re gone.

        Liked by 1 person

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