Last night I went back to my daughter’s elementary school for an event. We gathered to thank a wonderful woman who was leaving after 18 years to take another job. She is a friend, our children were in the same class for nine years and we were also colleagues for the seven years I officially worked for the school. I was an insanely involved volunteer before (and while) I was an employee. I drove to the school five days a week for a total of eleven years and I must say, although it has been a while, my car did very well retracing it’s old route. In the six years since I left, many other members of the community – faculty, staff and parents – have also moved on. But many of them returned last evening, as I did, to acknowledge this extraordinary woman.
It felt good to be there, familiar and at the same time it offered a curious awareness of how I have changed. I thought it was almost funny that my post yesterday was about being a hugger, because I did a lot, I mean a massive amount of hugging in that building. And there were hugs last night, of course. With a few people there were multiple hugs, because it had been a long time and because the physical act took the place of the hundreds of words there were no time to exchange. Hugs are good that way. But my ‘topic’ today is Back, not hugs, although a hugger’s back is an important element of a good hug.
Back in the day, when I was a young student in college, I read voraciously, absorbing the overwhelmingly western, white male canon of literature. One American author I read was Thomas Wolfe and for a time, his melancholic tone and insights really seemed to articulate my experience and philosophy. He was later supplanted by Dostoyevsky and Nabokov, as Wolfe himself had bumped Shakespeare and Dickens aside. Or perhaps it was the other way around. No matter, those were gluttonous days, indeed.
Two of Wolfe’s titles came to mind as soon as I thought about the idea of Back. When I paused to think about it, neither title contains the word ‘back’, but they both include the word ‘home’: You Can’t Go Home Again and Look Homeward Angel. To whit, ergo, thus it is confirmed that going back and going home are more or less the same thing in my mind. The WSL community was my home for eleven years and last night’s visit confirmed once again that while affection and memories remain, the home it was is no longer there for me. And the same is true of all the many physical and psychological/emotional homes where I have lived over the years. They are within me now and they are behind me.
I have been working on a piece of writing that is anchored in my childhood home, torn down some forty years ago now, but still so vivid in my mind. Each session of writing takes me back and some of that is melancholic, but much of it is exhilarating. To do the work of explaining to myself what I experienced back then is yielding so many insights into the past and the present. The sense of liberation is almost levitating. So, I keep at it, picking at scabs to reveal new skin. Hmm, I could follow that wound/blood/scab metaphor, but perhaps another time.
I’m going to close with a couple of lines from a book by Louise Hay. Her work and writing have had a powerful impact in my life and if you do not know of her, or if you do and feel dismissive of her work, I would propose that you suspend your cynicism for a bit and take a look. Retro? Maybe. New-agey? Maybe. But sometimes, many times she nails it and her methods can bring incredible results. Just ask me; I will testify. Anyway, these lines are actually affirmations from one of her earliest books. They are:
“I release the past and all past experiences. I let go of that which is in back of me.”