Going Home?

In The Great Suburban Showdown, Billy Joel sings about how hard it is to go back home after you’ve lived away for a while.  He speaks of how strange it feels to see the sameness of everything, and how one might plan to never go back again.  I experienced something similar recently when Craig and I were in Chicago meeting with possible vendors for our wedding next year.  It was a crazy week filled with much driving and an interesting trip back to a place I had called home for ten years.

I had moved to Chicago back in ’98, after a very bad breakup.  I packed all my stuff into my Toyota wagon and left Florida for the comfort of friends who offered me sanctuary.  Aside from a brief stint living in Prague, Chicago was my home for the next ten years.

Chicago is the perfect mix of big city hustle and bustle that I’d longed for ever since I was a kid, but tempered with the friendly Midwestern attitude that’s missing from New York.  However, over time I began to long for something a little less hustly and bustly (my apologies if those two words make it into Webster’s dictionary anytime soon), and moved out west.  Still, I’m very happy our wedding will be in Chicago, and looked forward to our trip.  I couldn’t wait to see dear friends who still lived there, and taste the cuisine I enjoyed and missed so much.

While we drove around the city meeting with potential florists, bakers and others that make a wedding memorable, it was interesting to see the neighborhoods I’d lived in or frequented.  Much had grown and changed in the three years that I’ve been away, while still managing to look very familiar to me.  There were even parts that looked dirtier than I remembered.  Not that they actually had run down, but that’s how my eyes now saw them.  There were smells I’d forgotten about; the Blommer’s Chocolate Factory near the loop, or the odd smell that I think is corn processing near Highway 55 . . . neither of which I find pleasurable.  After a few days, I found myself asking how I could’ve thought living in that city fun and enjoyable, and was again reminded of Mr. Joel’s song.

I realized that I’ve had this same feeling with any city I’ve lived in and left.  The worst of which was going back to visit New York several years after I’d lived there.  I actually cut my vacation to The Big Apple short because I couldn’t stand being in that city another minute . . . and that was one place I’d dreamed of living in when I was a kid in Michigan.

Upon further reflection, I see that “problem” (if indeed it can be called that) lies mostly with me.  Not that it’s an actual problem, but more that I’ve changed as a person; my likes, my dislikes, what’s important to me or not.  Time, and new experiences have both had a hand in morphing me from who I was into who I am today.  And, just as I’ve grown over the years that I’ve been away, so have the other cities I’ve lived in.  I had to realize that Chicago had grown and changed too, looking for ways to improve itself.  The city had dealt with innovations and issues just like the rest of us do . . . I just wasn’t there to witness the process.

It’s like a friend you haven’t seen in years.  They might look the same (albeit with a little age to them), but chances are, they’re not the same.  Neither are you.  You both change in ways that you miss by not seeing each other every day.

The collective THEY say you can’t go home again, and I think that’s true, simply because the home you knew before you left isn’t there anymore.  It just makes it hard when you do go back to visit, hoping for the sameness and security of what was once familiar to you.  Maybe the key is to think of it as a new city when you do go back, expecting to see sights that seem familiar from movies or stories.  I think those would be much more enjoyable visits, for everyone involved.


7 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Dana Fredsti
    Oct 28, 2011 @ 09:34:16

    I still feel a sense of ‘home’ when I go to San Diego, but I know exactly what you mean. There is comfort in places that haven’t changed, but I always find it jarring to see major changes in places that I haven’t seen for a while. Really nice post, ALyx!


    • Alyx Morgan
      Oct 28, 2011 @ 09:35:58

      Thanks, Dana. 🙂

      Yeah, I used to have a sense of ‘home’ with Chicago, which is why it was jarring for it not to feel that way this time. ‘Course, we did spend a lot of our time in the ‘burbs. 😉


  2. Kerry Smith McKenna
    Oct 28, 2011 @ 12:24:10

    Funny, when we are close to our friends or city for long time, do we really notice how it changes, as a whole? If we change just as slowly alongside it, are we really able to recognize change in ourselves and it? Going back seems to set the changes at high relief, and our own even higher. 2cents, Kerry


  3. Alyx Morgan
    Oct 28, 2011 @ 13:48:33

    A very interesting observation, Kerry. You’re probably right, that being away & then returning helps us to see the changes in ourselves & others more than if we never left.

    Thank you for the insight…& for stopping by today! 🙂


  4. Kaye George
    Oct 28, 2011 @ 22:29:23

    I lived in Chicago for awhile and still think it’s the only big city I’d really like to go back to. But my husband was raised there and will never go back. 🙂 We’re trying to decide where to retire right now and, since we have the whole country to choose from (and we’ve lived in a lot of it), it’s really hard! That won’t happen for a few years yet, but I’d like to set my mind on my next destination.


  5. Kaye George
    Oct 28, 2011 @ 22:30:38

    One thing that’s happened with me is that I can write about places I’ve lived, but never the place I’m in at the time. I’d love to set something in Austin, but will probably have to move away first.


    • Alyx Morgan
      Oct 28, 2011 @ 22:51:34

      LOL Kind of like you need to move away to get the proper perspective on it, eh? 🙂

      It makes sense to start thinking about where you want to retire this early. There’s a lot to think about.

      Thanks for stopping by tonight, Kaye.


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