Where we love is home - home that our feet may leave, but not our hearts.
- Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.
If you’re like me, nothing points out the reality of growing older more than trips back to a childhood home. Putting the lie to the line, “You can never go back home again,” many of us routinely make these trips and often find that what is more true is, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” I’ve noticed on my travels back to Western New York that the older I get the more these trips take on the air of nostalgia, as tales of new adventures give way to reminiscing about old times.
On a recent trip home I was having dinner with aging friends and was struck by a number of things:
- We were having a sit-down dinner, whereas in the past it would have been meeting for drinks and dining while standing up.
- We were dangerously close to being there for the Early Bird special, whereas in the past it would have been Happy Hour.
- I was the only one able to read the menu without glasses, whereas in the past no one needed a menu; we just ate whatever was the unhealthiest dish available.
- There was talk about children and grandchildren, whereas in the past it would have been about “babes.”
- There were as many cokes ordered as beers, whereas in the past the only cokes ordered came with rum in them.
- The question of who had to get home first arose, whereas in the past the only question that came up was “Where are we going after this?”
- The memory game of “Do you remember when?” was played, whereas in the past the game was trying to see who we could trick into forgetting that they paid the bill last time we were out.
Despite the undeniable truth that time was catching up with all of us, I enjoyed myself that night. Even the shared acknowledgment of, “Man, we’re old!” did not dampen the spirit of the evening.
Just before leaving, I took note of those in restaurant with us. Next to us was a table of white-haired ladies, the youngest of whom appeared to be in her seventies. Behind us sat a table of 30-somethings, who were clearly making the rounds and stopping only to fuel up for adventures later that evening. I was struck by the obvious symmetry of things as what was, what is, and what will be were all sharing the same space, dining on the same fare, and all, mostly, oblivious to each other.
As we filed out, the evening sun still in the air, the second wave of younger diners prepared to take our seats. It still felt like home and yet, at the same time, so alien. It seemed to me in that moment that Einstein was wrong and that something does move faster than the speed of light and that is life itself. Standing there as a flesh-and-blood time traveler, instantaneously moving from past to future, I was reminded of the quote, “While it’s true that you can never go back home again, it’s also true that you never really leave.”
Preparing to return to Virginia, it struck me that one of the benefits of growing older is the ability to appreciate the true meaning of home. Whether it be humble or harried, around the corner or across the globe, it’s the common resting ground for our hearts. It’s not something we leave and return to, it’s something we carry with us. I sat on the bumpy plane ride home comforted by the thought, there’s no place not home.