You Can't Go Home Again

Do you remember how it felt as a child when you got the swing at the playground going really, really high? 

You wondered if you might fall. Everything was upside down. And yet you couldn't stop tucking your legs underneath you and reaching even higher.

Do you remember what it was like to sit in the grass and pull dandelions, then take a deep breath and blow on them? How the feather-like wisps separated and floated off into the air? It seemed a bit magical. 

Do you recall climbing a tree? How you'd manage to get to one limb, holding on for dear life as you got your balance. Then look up and scrutinize just how far that next one was. 

Could you reach up and grasp it and heft yourself up another few feet? Maybe it wasn't such a good idea, you'd think. 

But then you'd never know unless you tried.

I never fell that I can remember. It was an amazing feeling to be high up in a tree and look down at a somewhat miniaturized world, though in reality it really wasn't all that far at all. 

When you're young, everything is higher, brighter, farther. And should you go back home as an adult, you see that the town wasn't so very big. The houses were just ordinary in size, and the trees did not begin to touch the sky.

Through a child's eyes, the truth was the whole truth or it was a lie. There was no in between. Gray did not exist. Just black and white. 

They say you can't go back home again. Where does that phrase come from?

You Can't Go Home Again is a novel by Thomas Wolfe published posthumously in 1940, from the contents of his unpublished manuscript The October Fair.

The novel tells the story of George Webber, a fledgling author, who writes a book that makes frequent references to his hometown. The book is a success, but the residents of the town are resentful.

Wolfe took the title from a conversation with the writer Ella Winter, who remarked to Wolfe: "Don't you know you can't go home again?" Wolfe asked her for permission to use the phrase as the title of his book. 

The phrase has entered American speech to mean that once you have left your town of origin, you cannot return to the narrow confines of your previous way of life. 

You cannot feel again how you felt on that swing or up in that tree or sitting in a mound of dandelions. You cannot replicate that feeling because you left that child behind.

And the world is not merely black and white. Gray has entered into your vision. And once that happens, there are question marks about most everything. 

To be a child means that you see things just as they are. It means that you define everything by how it looked through your eyes at that very moment. And it is stuck in your brain, in just that form, forevermore.

To me, the idea that you can't go home again means that you will never feel the innocence you once did. It left when you deigned, when somewhat older, to reach down on a whim and pull a dandelion.

Just for the heck of it you blew the remnants into the air. And somehow the magic was gone. A thing of the past.

I can't recall reaching down to pick a dandelion in my immediate memory. But I will admit, I still sometimes wish upon a star. And keep it to myself.


  1. This is a sweet post, Brenda. It's funny how things seem different, bigger somehow, when we are children. I have gone back to the neighborhood I grew up in a couple times and everything seems so much smaller now.

  2. Brenda, It is the innocence of youth . The hunger . The want. I never feel the same excitement I ever felt as a child. That does not mean I am not grateful , or that I do not count my blessings. It's just different from when I was young. I remember buildings and room from my childhood, once in them now they seem smaller. I wish while growing up, that someone would have told me to cling to my young days and make the most of them. Blessings, xoxo,Susie

  3. Thank you for this post Brenda, it's funny how we all have some of the same memories as children even though our pasts were so different. For me I lived in a world of books, it was my escape from a sad and lonely childhood. Through the books I could become anything and be anywhere, for me that was magical. I also remember the most wonderful dreams, dreams where I could fly, so real that I was't sure that it was a dream. I remember the dandelions, the swings, the trees, but mostly the stories.

  4. Ahhhh....wish upon a star but don't keep it to yourself! Always keep part of you child like! I feel a lot like what you described when we hike in the wilderness. There's excitement and a sense of escape from the real world. You walk out on a trail and live your 'normal' life behind. It's amazing! Have a good week my friend! I hope you are healing and feeling better every day. Hugs, Diane

  5. Well said, Brenda. I wish I knew now what I knew then.

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  7. Hi Brenda,

    Boy, are WE on the same wavelength, today!!

    But, I still whisper windy breezes on dandelions, wishing their wispy petals well, for their journey will most likely not differ so much from my own, as they try to stay airborne, amid the turbulence of time.

    Yes, you can't go home, unless you've never left, at least in the nooks and crannies of your heart and soul.

    Thanks for this most intriguing 'review' of life; a continuous work in progress.


  8. I absolutely remember going back to my old childhood vacation cabin as an adult and thinking "this is the smallest bedroom I've ever seen!" It was HUGE when I was a kid. Isn't it funny how that works? xo, Laura

  9. I often think of this, Brenda. We do lose that childhood innocence, but I wonder how much of it we can bring back into our lives. We are still a small connected part to that large universe. Very sweet post. xo Laura

  10. I enjoyed this post very much. It stirred up a memory I hadn't had in a very long time. My little white playhouse with pink shutters and the swing set, both tucked up under a persimmon tree. I can remember the feel of those pesky persimmons squishing between my toes. Good times!

  11. Thinking about my childhood the other day brought tears to my eyes. I do remember blowing the dandelion. We played ball in a back yard of the projects that were behind my house. I was the only girl in a neighborhood of boys. Once in a while I went alone and I remember one day exactly where I was when I blew the dandelion. I also remember climbing trees-everyday! I loved it! I even dreamed out climbing a tree the other night. Thanks for the memories. BTW, I climbed pine trees. There was always another limb highter. I climbed on a rusty trash can to get up and it was easy to get down. Fun memories. Cherish them.

  12. I think our memories are precious and while it's true we can't go back to our innocence, we can still see beauty in the little things that surround us. I am blessed to see the innocence in my Grandchild's eyes and it inspires me. Hope you are healing well and feeling better these cold Nov days.

  13. A very sweet post.

    We were gathered together as a family over the past weekend to celebrate my aunt's 90th birthday. What struck me most is how each of the cousins had a different take on a past event. I discovered that I had dates and years wrong for things or maybe the others were wrong. One cousin had just visited our grandmother's house and been so disappointed to see the house run down and remodeled (poorly).

  14. hallo, brenda, danke für die bilder!!! liebe grüße und einen schönen mittwoch wünscht angie

  15. This was written straight from the heart and I love it, Brenda. I don't like to look back, at least not too far back, but you've made me realize that I still have a lot of the little girl in me that believed in the truth and ignored the lies.

    Jane x

  16. I had a wonderful, carefree childhood, and for that, I am so grateful. We didn't have much, but how we ran and played and explored the world on our bikes and roller skates. I wish all children could have a magical childhood. It is something to carry in one's heart forever. Thanks for sharing this, Brenda.

  17. I so relate with this Brenda!
    I sometimes will wish that just for one day I could go back and be a child. Have those innocent thoughts and purely joyous reactions to things. That I'm in my old house, my mom is making the dinner for us and I don't have to. That my biggest worry is if I did my homework and if my boy crush likes me too. And this time of year especially I want to go back. I want to be the one with no stress, few responsibilities and those precious loved ones I miss so much are still here sharing their wisdom with me.

    I think the magic can still be where we look for it sometimes, though, too. So keep looking and wishing on stars. ;)

  18. Such beautiful words & memories..keep wishing Brenda..because wishing is hope..and without hope we would lose ourselves..

  19. For me, the innocence of childhood had pretty much evaporated by the time I reached elementary school age. I remember ducking under my desk during atomic bomb drills; watching President Kennedy's funeral procession, and standing on the playground talking with some other kids as we tried to figure out what the War on Poverty was, since it was coming to our region. War sounded scary. I hadn't even reached fourth grade!

    But there were some other very sweet, innocent moments. I remember being in second grade and just loving my pretty teacher, Mrs. Jenkins. She had a pen with pearls around the top that contained perfumed ink. We girls were fascinated with it. The Beverly Hillbillies was a big hit that year, and she waited patiently when some other girls and I stood up in front of the class and sang the words to the theme song. I finally learned to read that year too. I got to see Mrs. Jenkins a couple of years ago, over 50 years after second grade, when we both attended the same event back in my hometown. (It was a funeral -- that's what you go back home for, unfortunately.) Mrs. Jenkins was as pretty and kind as ever, and seemed to carry the innocence of the old days with her. I was glad I got to remember a few of those good memories with her.

  20. I can remember sitting in my Grandmother's front yard making bracelets out of Dandelion stems, sliding the ends into each other, and then slipping them on our wrist. Such great memories. Our childhood is never dead as long as we can remember some of the moments.


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