I was an English minor in college. I concentrated in Modern Period American Literature. This is generally considered as the years between World War I and II. One of the richest periods of literature in any country in history. Think of the writers who were at their peaks during these years: Hemingway, Faulkner, Fitzgerald, Sinclair Lewis, Gertrude Stein, T.S. Eliot, Pearl Buck, and my personal favorite John Steinbeck.
For the class The Modern American Novel, I was required to read You Can’t Go Home Again by Thomas Wolfe. Like another one of my favorite novels, The Great Gatsby, Wolfe’s classic tells us that we can never go back. We can’t reclaim our past. Time moves on, things change and even something as ‘familiar’ as home is never quite the same. People might accept you, but once you leave, you can’t return.
I’m no Thomas Wolfe, but I think his reach may have exceeded his grasp in You Can’t Go Home Again. Because you can. And no matter where you go, what you achieve, or where you live, home is always home.
A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to visit my hometown for a book signing at the Public Library. I grew up in Homer, Michigan a small town straight out of Norman Rockwell. About 1500 residents, with the population remaining pretty constant for the last few decades. Every time I have a new book, the staff at the Homer Public Library invites me to come and sign books.
It’s hands down my favorite event. I get to reconnect with friends and family. Sandi and Trixie and the rest of the staff are so supportive and friendly and it serves to remind me of what’s important. The people who have helped you along in life. Several of my former teachers come each year. (I always joke that they show up because they heard that I’d written a book and have to see for themselves). My typing teacher Mrs. Acker always comes. For years; my sixth grade English teacher came until she sadly passed away well into her 90’s.
Then this past week, I had a chance to visit my nephew Scott’s school for a presentation. He’s in fourth grade and smart as a whip. Just like his older brother Brent. Seeing the happy smile on his face while I spoke to his classmates about writing and books and history was a truly great feeling.
And then, like most gifts, I realized those good feelings came to me not because of what I’ve done. But of what was done for me.