Thursday, May 3, 2012

Iron Mountain & Thomas Wolfe

I have a tendency to romanticize (idealize, sentimentalize) things in the past.  I would not doubt that I sat with my friends in second grade & said "Remember how nice it was when we were in first grade?  Our classroom was so bright & cheery & Sister Anita was such a fun teacher!  I sure wish we could be in first grade again!"  I can just picture it ... all my friends excited about learning cursive writing & eating lunch with "the big kids," looking at me like I had totally lost it.

I think we've all heard the Thomas Wolfe quote "You can't go home again."  That 5-word observation is very true & the realization of it can knock the breath out of you.

John & I finally took our trip to Iron Mountain which is the reason for my absence the past few days.  We returned home last night.  I have often thought & truly believed that if someone buys our house, Iron Mountain would be a great place to move back to.  However, my breath was knocked out of me just within an hour or two after our arrival.  Maybe sooner than that.  Nothing had changed, but then again everything had changed.  The town looked pretty much the same as it did when we left it 5-1/2 years ago ... the same streets, the same houses, the same stores ...  but something was different.  We "didn't belong."  We had a wonderful few years living there with John working & me involved in things with my friends.  They were good times but they were in the past, never to be recreated.  They couldn't be.  Things have changed.  John & I have changed.  I didn't expect to feel this way.  One of the reasons for our trip (an excuse really) was to close out a bank account we've had there all this time.  We were standing with the teller & began to sign the papers to close the account & I was doing fine when suddenly the "this will never be again" feeling overwhelmed me & it took every ounce of strength I had not to start sobbing uncontrollably & collapse in a heap on the floor.  I know reading about this reaction of mine might make some people question my sanity but maybe there will be one or two of you who have shared perhaps not an experience to the exact same degree but something somewhat similar.  You will understand what I'm saying.

We left the bank, I cried in the car for a while, surprised at these unexpected emotions, & John said "Where to now?"  I had planned to get a Houses for Sale booklet & take a look at the homes available.  I had planned to knock on a few doors to surprise a few friends.  I had planned many things.  Instead we drove by the 2 homes we had once lived in & observed how the new owners had let them fall into disrepair.  We went to the two grocery stores where we used to shop all the time & where I was crushed to find that neither one sold Screaming Yellow Zonkers anymore.  We went to Shopko ... the only store where I could buy the t-shirts I like to wear.  They did still offer the shirts for sale, but not really.  What used to be very good quality t-shirts were now shirts made of very thin, cheap material, poorly sewn.  I did not buy them.

The kicker came that evening when we went to our favorite restaurant for dinner.  Fontana's is an Italian restaurant where you are served mini loaves of honest-to-goodness homemade bread with real butter along with honest-to-goodness homemade pasta.  I'm not just talking homemade sauce here although they have that too ... I'm talking homemade pasta.  Their gnocchi, spaghetti, & cheese ravioli are out of this world.  John & I used to eat there often & that's where we celebrated all our special occasions.  The owner & two waitresses knew us well.  We were greeted by name when we arrived & taken to what was "our table" where the owner would come sit down & visit with us for a while.  (She did not visit like this with everyone.  We were "special.")  Often they gave us our meal for free "just because."  Fontana's looked the same.  They had the same food.  They had the same two waitresses.  Although we immediately recognized them, they appeared to have no recollection of us at all.  I realize that the last 5-1/2 years have been hard on us & we've probably aged 10 or 15 years in this time period but to not have any recollection of us at all after all the time we had spent there talking & joking with them was disappointing.  When our meal was brought to us John made a comment about how we always used to love having dinner there, how it had been several years since we had done so, & he pointed to "our table."  Both waitresses politely attempted to feign some sort of recognition but you could tell they had no idea who we were or what we were talking about.  I did ask about the owner who in the past was always there during serving times but was glaringly absent while we had this meal.  I was told that she had moved to South Carolina to be with her daughter & grandchildren.  We arrived, ate our meal, & left without recognition.      

Although my realization that "we can't go home again" was extremely difficult, I find it surprising that I have, when all is said & done, accepted it so "easily" in what turned out to be a relatively short period of time.  It has made me question my other nostalgic reminiscences of former places of residence & I've come to the conclusion that we probably no longer belong in any of those places either.  Thomas Wolfe was a wisely observant man.  

John does not romanticize (idealize, sentimentalize) things like I do.  He views things more realistically & often sees or remembers things that at first I don't.  He mentioned on our drive back home that things were not always "good" when we lived in Iron Mountain & he gave me several examples.  I had to agree with him.  Undoubtedly this also helped me with my realization & acceptance.

The entire trip was not a disappointing attack on my emotions & I will tell you about something "fun" tomorrow when I will also attempt to catch up on blog posts.      


Chris said...

Wow Shirlee,
I know exactly what you mean. People and places both move on and things change.
I can't wait to hear about the fun part!

Vickie said...

Oh Shirlee, No, say it isn't so. I am so sad to read this. My "dream" is to return to Greendale someday. Everyone in the family knows this, it's no secret. We lived there 10 years, raised our kids there. I love that little community. I drive through it, look at "our house" a few times a year. I have heard many stories of old people and younger couples returning. Oh I do hope it can be so someday. I actually wake up smiling when dreaming of Greendale.

Carolyn said...

It's true--you can't go back, we want to when we remember only the good times. It can't be recreated--I know--I've tried! It's best to move on!

Mrs. GraceWorks said...

I do understand. We moved back "home" after 12 years up north and it is no longer "home". Memories are a gift, but I think the apostle Paul was right when he said, "forgetting the things that are behind and reaching forth unto the things that are before..." Now it's time to make new memories wherever you choose to go! : )

Anonymous said...

"This is not Kansas anymore Toto" Sometimes I use this phrase for myself or even the one in REM song "It is the end of the world has you know it" or even a portuguese phrase that has been with me for a long long time and the translation goes somewhat like this" let's move forward so there is no one knocking us down from our back".
There is never a way to remake things past!!!

marly said...

Sorry things didn't work out as you had hoped Shirlee. My cousin came back and was thrilled, even with starting over. My friend changed enough over the years away that she can't accept this area any more. You just have to follow your instincts and we all have a different reaction. At least you know now and can move on without regrets.

bettyj said...

Don't cry because it's over. Smile because it happened.

Maureen said...

An interesting post as always Shirlee.You got me thinking with this one.I suppose while we live in a place changes happen and we just go with the flow. To go away and come back though makes them stick out like a sore thumb. It sounds like this was actually a positive trip in helping you along with your plans. Hmmm... where will life lead you? or might you even decide to stay where you are?? This is like reading a good mystery!

butterfly said...

Oh Shirlee I have been there done that many many times in my life, you can't go back you have to move forward nothing ever stays the same.
We have gone back in time to see friends but it's never the same their children now have their own children.
And you stop to think where did all those years go.
Nothing ever stays the same.
Life is always changing, have a fun weekend hugs .

TheCrankyCrow said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
TheCrankyCrow said...

And wasn't it Mr. Wolfe who also said: “All things on earth point home in old October; sailors to sea, travellers to walls and fences, hunters to field and hollow and the long voice of the hounds, the lover to the love he has forsaken”? Perhaps you are coming upon your October, and just need to point yourselves in the right "homeward" direction. The exact place you were once in your lives will not be now as your mind once saw it, as it, too, has moved on - but there is, nonetheless, a place for you that can be home.....Smiles & Hugs ~ Robin