One cool thing about writing this blog is that I get to learn random trivia while doing it (what, dear God, did we ever do without Google search and Wikipedia?) The title of this post came to mind, and since we are living in 2016, I took a few seconds and looked up its origins. It is actually the title of a book by Thomas Wolfe, published in 1940, and taken from a question posed to him by writer Ella Winter (and then used with her permission): “Don’t you know you can’t go home again?”
The things that stick around and become part of our lexicon. I wonder what Thomas and Ella would think about that.
Anyway, this summer we are going “home” again. At least me and my younger sister are, to the city where we grew up. Back to southern California for a visit, to show Tina’s girls where we were born and raised, and where their parents met. This past week I’ve spent a good amount of time online, looking at potential places to stay (giving AirBnB a try!). I have also, as a consequence, spent a good amount of time thinking about the place I used to call home, and thinking about the Past.
Let Me Call You Sweetheart
I have a figurine I have been carrying around since childhood. A lovely young lady in a long purple dress, wearing a purple bonnet ringed with tiny blue flowers. I recall her being a birthday gift from my parents, and I loved her. I wanted to be her, to wear that dress and hat, wear those dainty gloves.
At age almost 52, I still have her sitting on my dresser, as she did over 40 years ago, albeit now without the circular music box mechanism that used to be attached at the bottom of her dress. I would obsessively turn the bottom disc to wind the music up, place her carefully back down, and then watch as she slowly spun around to the tinkley chorus of “Let Me Call You Sweetheart.” Looking closely now, you can see she lost her head and both hands at some point (and they were not glued back very expertly). But she is still as lovely and serene as ever.
Looking at her brings that tune into my head, and (a quick Google search later) I have learned that the song was written in 1910. Apparently it was very popular.I’ve never really thought much about the fact that the Lady in Purple still sits on my dresser (if I ever gave her a name, I have since forgotten). I don’t pick her up and examine her on a daily basis like I once did. I am not as enamored of her as I once was either, but I find her charming. The fact that she was a gift from my parents makes her special. Maybe this is a weird thing, but there is something reassuring about her being there. Still.
We can add so much emotional/sentimental weight to objects (our attic is very heavy!) We give them stories, give them heft way beyond their true value. And I love that. I think that’s one of the things I enjoy about making shrines or 3D assemblage pieces. Especially using found objects (perhaps they are someone else’s weighted things). A variable mishmash of objects assembled just so, add paint, add sparkle, and a story emerges. Sometimes you start with a story in mind, sometimes one is created with the piece (or changes along with it). In the end, someone may read the story differently than I do, but that’s even better, that the piece I have created has multiple layers of meaning.
Stories. That’s what our lives are made of.
It’s true, you can’t go back home. That place, as you knew it, doesn’t exist anymore. The child/person you were doesn’t exist anymore. Many of the people you were with, then, are no longer in this realm. Come July, we’ll just be visiting beautiful California, recalling and sharing some stories about our time there.
At least, that’s going to be my mental point of view. Traveling down Memory Lane, it would be too easy to add emotional weight, make the stories heavy with comparison of how things “used to be.” I’ve been at this point before, been back there and been so very disappointed with the way things are now. Too many people, too much traffic. And the biggest disappointment of all, Disneyland is not the same…
It’s still going to be a great trip. This is where our stories started, the place where our journeys began! But it’s a place like my Lady in Purple is a beloved object: not in the same, perfect, out-of-the-wrapping-paper shape; not held and touched daily; but very special, and reassuring that it’s still there.