Growing up, I always heard “You can’t go home again” and I wondered what it meant. Why can’t you go home again, I would wonder. I asked my parents many times if I could come home again, years down the line- would they still let me in the house? Would they still let me stay with them even years after I’d moved out, and I supposed, after I’d started my own family?
They always assured me that of course I could come home. Of course I could stay with them, my own family in tow or not.
So I thought maybe the saying was based in the fact that many American families move after, I believe the statistic runs, 7 or 8 years. I decided we would keep the house I grew up in, and aimed to keep it for myself. When it became apparent we were not moving anywhere anytime soon, the saying came back to me. What does it mean?
Finally, I left for college… and when I came back after a month, things had changed. I’d been gone and furniture had been moved around; I can’t go home again. I begged my parents to leave everything the same for my next visit, but again, things had changed- small things, where the coffee was kept or the sugar bowl- you can’t deny that I felt misplaced. Different… it wasn’t the same place.
I moved out years ago, and still I go back – it’s only a borough away in Queens – but things aren’t the same. Mom no longer cooks for me. Some family members are gone; gone but not forgotten. Others have started their own families, in their own houses and homes. I’ve made my own home in Manhattan, but it has yet to give me the feeling that Mommy and Daddy’s house did- the warmth enveloping me, the safe feeling of being loved always, and always people around… and always, always, something yummy to eat- either now, or in the near future.
I don’t normally post about anything besides food here, because I keep a personal blog, and because I want this blog to be focused on the food. But undergoing a personal family crisis made me realize that food is tied so closely to “home” for me that I wanted to share this. I can’t go home again, to that carefree feeling as a kid, but I can aim to get close with the foods of my childhood.
I’ve been so painfully homesick recently (made stronger by the family crisis, I believe) that I’ve been dreaming of all the foods I ate as a child: macaroni soup (of my mother’s making), plain white congee with pickled radishes (I think? I can’t find them…), and other various “soothing” things she’d feed me when I was sick.
I can’t go home again… but I can get close through food.
RIP Grandpa. You will be missed. Thank you for teaching me how to enjoy life, food, and for being who you were, which in turn makes me who I am today.