You can’t go home…

I recently read a series of posts on a Yahoo group that I found very sad. Not jus sad, but very sad. Several people spoke of their pasts and where they came from. The images evoked such dismay that I could not let it pass without comment.

Graceland, Memphis, TN

These poor people talked about how things had changed in the places and neighborhoods where they once lived. They told sad stories of vandalized homes and razor wire surrounding schools. Heartbreaking. I understand. I try not to go home because it is always such a disappointment to me to see how things have deteriorated. I also found great sadness during the few years I lived in Memphis. A city filled with such historical splendor and it is horribly abused and neglected. What could I do? Well, one thing I am doing is working on a story that celebrates some of Memphis’ fine history. Some day it will see publication and others will be able to enjoy the thrill I get each time I am there and I dig for the richness that once was.

In twelve days I will be traveling to Pakistan with my husband. That is the land of his birth and I know that every time he goes back, the changes affect him dramatically. But he has never lost site of what was and is still is mportant to him about home. I learn a lot from him.

With that in mind, I propose this.

As writers and publishers don’t you think we could make a change in all this? Every time I go home I feel lost. I admit it. But I just keep moving and try not to look back, like if I don’t pay attention it won’t really be there. It serves no good purpose.

What if as a collective a group of writers and publisher started a movement to rebuild our old communities and surroundings, one page at a time? We use words as our tools. We paint pictures with those words. We have the ability and the talent to bring those images of beauty and peace back to those areas and to those people who now inhabit them.

What if 1000 writers all took to their computers and wrote essays, articles, short stories, books, etc. painting the images that we so vividly recall?

I would think that with as many magazines as there are out there that a series of well-written articles with some beautifully nostalgic photos might bring about the stirrings of possible change. 

We can all hang out here and feel bad about it, but what if we each made one little effort and then went to one other person to make one little effort, and so on? Don’t you think that the power of the word has the ability to change? It can certainly change for the worse, why don’t we MAKE it change for the better?

These places are our heritage, our roots, doesn’t that make it our responsibility to breathe life back into them?

I’d love hear about where you are from.


7 responses to “You can’t go home…

  1. I returned home after college & 5 years and have never regretted the move. I’m all about “small town America” and it’s where I thrive. It’s comforting to be near old friends and family, my old school, the old Main St., and even the graves of loved ones. It’s fun to visit the city, but always good to come home.

  2. Once in my old customer service job I had a phone conversation with a woman on the opposite coast, and it turned out that we’d grown up within a half mile of each other, on either side of a major thoroughfare. She had wonderful memories and impressions, while mine were quite negative. I’d lived in a tenement house that has since burned down and not been replaced. Overall, my old neighborhood seems not to have changed much, at least on the surface. Everything nearby, however, has been built up. The field where we used to play now hosts a car dealership, and in general there is much less open space.

    Maybe my old ‘hood doesn’t look so much different because it didn’t have much further to fall. And yet I have such a mix of memories, both good and bad–bullies, baseball, berrypicking, alcoholics, adults fighting, backyard gardens… As I look back and compare it to places I’ve read about, I shouldn’t complain.

    Bob Sanchez

  3. I have a picture of myself holding a pig (and wearing my mother’s high heels) in the entry of my house. It helps me remember.

    You can see the picture here:

    It’s been 32 years since I moved away, but more than ever, I am writing about my country youth.

    Great idea.

    Denise Burks

  4. I grew up in the Quad Cities, then southeastern Iowa. Currently I’m in south central Iowa. When I was a child we visited Illinois City, a very small town just across the river from Muscatine, Iowa. IC is where my family came from. One of my ancestors received the land from the government to found the town and its surrounding farmland. There used to be a house on the north west side of town, around a couple of turns, down the hill and around the bluff. The house used to be an old stagecoach stopping place. There were docks down by the river. As the years went by my family owned it, then anotehr party owned it, then the county. When the hosue still existed, my family used to gather for holidays and other weekends. I was only a child then but for some reason, that house and land still holds a connection to me. Even when the house fell into disrepair and the family no longer owned it, I used to take time and go visit the old place, even when it was just a foundation. I visited last time a couple of years ago for research for a story. The farmland near the house is now grassy marsh, only those in the know would recognize the spot where the house stood, the docks are long gone and only a faint trail still marks the old stagecoach line. It was a good and happy place. Ironically, I plan to turn it and the town into one big ghost story.

    Stephen L. Brayton

  5. As time goes on, I find myself writing more stories set in rural America, and utilizing the pieces of the quiet parts and wilderness of the country I know.

    Wonderful post. 🙂

  6. I’m from Decatur, Illinois – “The Soybean Capital of the World.” Yes, we were named that in a history book when I was a child. I admit, I didn’t find too much to like about the city, so I moved away as soon as I could. Still, we go back there every year and I’ve seen the few things I did like being replaced. In my case, I wouldn’t know how to use my words to “restore Decatur’s past” to something magical (like Memphis). I could only try to push the city towards a better day.

    -Gayle Carline, author of “Freezer Burn”

  7. Ironic, I go through similar emotions whenever I travel to visit my family in Germany, the country I was born in. Not that anything in the neighborhood I grew up in is neglected, or changed in a negative way, no worse. Friends still live in the 3 streets where I once lived as young boy, a teenager, and the first years of my young adulthood.

    I stand there and in front of those doors, but I can’t go in. I know the neighbors, but not the people who dwell behind those doors and I wouldn’t dare to ring the bell and ask to go in. It bothers me a lot that I can’t just turn back time. I wish my parents had been more into photography and perhaps video cameras. I do have tons of photos and I’ve taking photos of the houses I lived in, from the same angles in which they were taken 40 years ago.

    Karen, The way this described this, you REALLY need to read my debut novel *Torn From Normal* Andy experiences the very same problem, he can’t go home. When he runs away he travels to his old house hoping for the safety he once knew there when his family was still alive, but a new family bought their house…..

    I’m very happy to see you blog again 🙂 I left a link for anyone who might be interested.

    –Martin Bartloff, author of *Torn From Normal*

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