It's so odd to come back and visit a place where I once lived. I told my husband once that as much as I love seeing all our old friends, I find it difficult and a little unnerving to come back and hang around Kalamazoo.
"When I'm here, I like to see everyone and hang out and go to all our old favorite spots...but then I want to go down the street and home to my bed and curl up under a blanket and wake up in our little apartment and walk across the back yard to go get fresh bagels for breakfast. But I can't do any of that, because it's not our apartment anymore, and we got rid of that blanket two moves ago, and tonight we're going to be crashing on someone's sofa bed because we don't live here anymore. We're in this place that is so familiar, this town we once loved and called home, but we have nowhere to go. It makes me feel so rootless and unconnected, like I could just fly off the spinning planet."
He laughed and called me silly, until a few years ago when we came back for a wintertime visit and found ourselves driving down our old street in the dark a few weeks before Christmas, looking at all the ramshackle Victorian houses with their crooked strings of lights. There was a light on in the apartment that we had once lived in and loved so well, and we knew the radiators would be gurgling away, making the place toasty warm.
"Okay, you're right," he said as we slowly cruised past our old building. "I want to just pull into our driveway and go home, but I can't. It feels like I ought to be able to just park in our old spot and go right upstairs. But I can't. Our stuff isn't there; it's 3,000 miles away, in California. That sad little fake tree you used to put up isn't up there, or those pine candles you got that smelled like toilet cleaner. Our super-comfy bed with the sad old comforter isn't there, either, even though my body wants to go upstairs and tumble into it. Even though I almost just pulled into the driveway out of habit, we don't live here anymore. It still feels like home here but it's not home. Oh, I don't like this at all."
But there's nothing to be done about it, is there? I'd love to win the lottery and buy our old apartment building and turn it back into the gorgeous pre-war duplex it once was. I'd love to live in our old neighborhood, close to our friends and right in the middle of a vibrant and diverse community. But those things wouldn't change us back into the people we were then, or give us back the life we used to have here. We're different, the town is different, some of our friends have moved away and those that remain also have very different lives from what used to be.
I know all this, but every time I'm here I am filled with longing, because I think it is the last place that truly felt like home.