In the title of a book, Thomas Wolfe declares “you can’t go home again”, and many other writers and philosophers have expressed a similar idea in their works. That sentiment has been running around my warped little mind during a visit to my chosen hometown, Tucson, Arizona.
I say “chosen” because, as a cold war-era military brat, I don’t really have one of those picture perfect GOP-endorsed small hometowns where kids grew up in some kind of idealized past. The military hospital in which I was born was torn down many years ago and the base housing area I first came home to is now an industrial park.
Besides, my family only lived there for a few months before moving on to my father’s next posting. Followed by seven or eight additional transfers before I left for college.
None of this is presented as an appeal for sympathy. For me, my siblings, and many of the kids around us, it all seemed pretty normal – packing up every few years and heading for somewhere else. Not having a “real” hometown and eventually selecting one from the many stops along the way.
At two times during my stream of childhood we landed in Tucson (for a year each). Then I returned to the university here for most of my undergraduate program1 and graduate school. Add in the fact that my in-laws live here, and I acquired an adopted hometown.
I'm pretty sure all of this is a contributing factor to why I don't do much dwelling on the past – here or anywhere else. And why I feel Americans in general spend way too much time memorializing that past (much of which is heavily fictionalized), energy that would be better used in planning for the future. I know, I would be a real downer at reunions.2
Anyway don't get me wrong about this trip. It's fun to wander through the university campus and to visit landmarks around town about which I have hazy fond memories. Places that have changed ownership and been remodeled more than a few times in the decades since (with the possible exception of my dorm :-). And catching up face-to-face with family and friends (as opposed to whatever happens on Facebook).
A few days every so often digging into the past is nice. I just don't want to live there.