You Can’t Go Back Home Again: The American South and Disagreeing with Thomas Wolfe
Homecoming is such a strange and wonderful thing. Thomas Wolfe knew it; he wrote a whole novel about it (minus the wonderful part). His protagonist, George Webber, tells the reader, “You can’t go back home to your family, back home to your childhood … back home to a young man’s dreams of glory and of fame … back home to places in the country, back home to the old forms and systems of things which once seemed everlasting but which are changing all the time — back home to the escapes of Time and Memory” (Wolfe, 253).
I respect the brilliance of Thomas Wolfe and of all those other smartypants writers whose work I’ve examined a bajillion times. And if I were being philospohical, I’m sure I’d agree with him. But for the purposes of this blog, I say, “Shut it, Wolfe.” Because I DID go home again, and it was awesome. But please note: the house you see here is not my home. :)
Over my winter break from PhD-ness I went back to my home town in South Carolina to see my family and jam with my best friends. Even if my life has changed drastically since I left, I still find such comfort and beauty in the places and people I saw every day for so many years. There are things there that I would never see here, and in that their former ordinariness has taken on a sense of exotically familiarity. Colors look different there; people sound different; the grass and the trees and the skies are different.
Also different? The number of amazing old houses and farm buildings that have been left to whomever finds them. Their rusty tin roofs and weathered wood make my heart sieze up a little. Who doesn’t love a little shabby rural beauty? And the fields of hay, with their grazing horses, and the long lines of trees…these are things I will always be able to return to, even if I don’t see them in the same way I did when they were part of my daily life.
For my descent into nostalgia and the bowels of this abandoned house, I chose a dress that suited the burnished glory of the sun setting on the old South (not to be confused with “The Old South”). I love how the copper silk burns in the light. It reflects the perfect feeling of satisfaction in a place well known and well met.