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Coming Home Again

Before driving back to Chicago, an acquaintance who is also from the fair metropolis but vowed never return for fear of freezing his gottkes, long underwear or whatever, off, said that you can’t go home again.

Wanting to be polite, I merely gave him one of those California looks and stared around his chin, but inside I scoffed and thought, “You can, and I will.”

But in ways, he was right and wrong.  You can go home again meaning that you can return to the essence of a place, but at the same time, you can’t because people change, and some in my case have become like a clip from “Invasion of the Body Snatchers.”

First there is April, who always was a little off, though it was funny in high school.  As an adult, she would wander up mountains alone only to have to be rescued by kind passers-by, walk in bad neighborhoods alone at night and refuse to lock her door.  It was funny in a spacey sort of way, though I now wonder if she had a secret death wish.

Because she was basically nice and kind, I decided to contact her through Facebook.  She was still nice and kind, still had that easy laugh and was still nutty.  The light dawned when she thought one of my dogs was ignoring her, as if a four-legged creature with constant food cravings, could think rationally, that and some other things.  After she failed to return a phone call and an email and then asked me to write an essay about how I spent a holiday, it was time to move on.

Then there’s Karen, a high school acquaintance, who I’d always been impressed with.  I remember her bounding down the halls in hip huggers jeans, a megawatt smile and all that curly hair.  She became a librarian who texts only when she doesn’t have other plans then fails to return texts or phone calls.  Mama Mia!

But the dilly of them all, the icing on the cake, is Sister Margaret, the nun.  We met at a teaching assignment, shared our feelings and thoughts and often met on the steps of the Art Institute for a bagged lunch.  She reminded me of another sister, Sister Betrille, played by Sally Fields on the “Flying Nun.”   My Sister was free-spirited, I always half expected her to turn a cartwheel.  We corresponded throughout the years and her letters always contained notes written in the margins so I’d have to turn the paper at different angles to finish it.  It was so her, so Sister Betrille.

We’d always lose contact, but I’d always pick it up again because I enjoyed her kind words and encouragement and support.  I called when I came into town, and not only did she not remember me at first, but she was the total anti-thesis of the friend I knew.  She was so was cold, formal and distant, it was like someone had sucked the spirit out of her.

Maybe you can’t completely go home again.  People either change or become more of who they were or what they were going to be, but you can always go home to yourself and decide what you want.


  1. February 23, 2012 at 9:06 am

    Loved the part about your Sister Betrille. Ours in grade school was Sister Barbara, the one you could approach easily and who would write the word F-U-#-K on the board so she could open a discussion about it in class. I tried going home the year before last. It was both comforting and distant, a place filled with fences and I was standing on them all the time, teeter-tottering between past and present, attached yet detached.

    • February 23, 2012 at 9:48 am

      Susan, a nun wrote the f-word on the board? I guess there’s a sister Bertrille in every lot, and they are the most fun!

  2. Arlene Rosner
    February 23, 2012 at 9:39 am

    When can I look for an autographed copy of the book you’re going to write? I really like this piece!!!!

  3. February 26, 2012 at 5:44 am

    Gail — what a great musing! I remember attending my first class reunion after I’d been away from my hometown for years. It is strange to see how people change, yet still remain the same. One girl who’s cattiness toward me was still there despite how those high-school days were long gone, still remained. Another who was so kind, that kindness was magnified — still there. Maybe you can’t ever go home — I find it difficult now as well, but it’s nice to visit the place you once called home because it always brings back some bittersweet memories of who you once were and how far you’ve come. Inspiring post — thanks for sharing.

    • February 26, 2012 at 6:35 am

      And thank you for sharing, Brudgette. To me, there’s still an essence of a place that remains and that’s why we go home.

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