Someone* once said, "You can't go home again." The main idea there, of course, being that life is a one-way progression, and that as we learn and grow and change and age, it's impossible to go back to the place we came from. I mean, sure, people go home all the time. When I'm back in my old hometown, I drive by the house I grew up in to see what it looks like. The house is still there. It was home for many years. I can go there, but I can't go back to the way I was when I lived there. Life, once lived, cannot be un-lived.
I may have mentioned once or twice or a thousand times that Husband and I have a house. Our house.** The Albatross, as I like to call it in moments of affection. As of the first of July, our house will be the dwelling place of three single college boys. They will have wild parties in it. People will vomit off of my lovely wraparound porch. They will spill beer on my refinished hardwood floors and reheat stale pizza in my gourmet kitchen. They will shack up with sorority girls of questionable morality in my girls' pale yellow bedroom.
And I'm okay with that. I don't live there anymore. I will never live there again. Somebody ought to. Their rent will pay my mortgage, and enable me to pay my own rent. It's circular. Life moves that way.
As of the first of July, my girls and I will be the newest tenants in a small apartment building on the north side of Chicago. Two bedrooms and a bath, heat and water included, will be our domain. Four flights up, four flights down. Locks on every door. We will make our mark on our new space, decorating and arranging to suit our needs. We will dirty up the new bathtub, let milk sour in the new fridge, spend sleepless nights under this strange new roof.
I'm okay with this, too. It's a strange change, a strange set of circumstances. Most people go from renting to owning, not the other way round. I couldn't provide any landlord references but myself and Husband on my rental application. People look askance, but most are polite enough not to ask too many questions.
We leave one house, we enter another.*** People move everyday. We are not unique in this. We are not of the generation who grew old and died in the houses they were born in. We are nomads, wandering from house to house, relationship to relationship, city to city, looking for the one that's "just right."
I'm going home to pack soon, to sort through the things we want to keep, the things we want to get rid of, recycle, hand down, throw away. 1000 square feet of apartment doesn't hold 2200 square feet of house. We will pare down judiciously, taking only the things that we really want, really need. Everything else is expendable.
But even though I'm going home, to the place I own, our first house, Thomas Wolfe was right. I can return to the physical location, but I can't ever recapture that time in my life. Now that we've come to this place, where words like Separation and Divorce are bandied about as carelessly as Husband and Wife, Love and Hate, we can't go back to that place. To be fair, it wasn't that great a place to start with. In the time we lived there together, I had a baby and a nervous breakdown. When Husband lived there alone, after I left, he had an affair. There was fighting, a lot of fighting. There was no sleep, but lots of crying. But there was also hope, the underlying hope that if the kids would just get a little older, if a little more time would pass, if the bills would get paid, if the schedule would change, if he could only see, only understand, then things would get better. There was always this hope.
That hope, once lost, can't be regained. There are different kinds of hope, certainly, but that one is forever tied to our old home, the one that was Ours, not just Mine. It's not coming with me when I pack.
*i.e. everyone who feels the need to turn perfectly decent book titles into cliche phrases about life. See also "Things Fall Apart."
**It's a very very very fine house.
***Choosing, for the moment, to completely ignore the Transition Year spent here with my inlaws.