July 3-7, 2019, Saugus, MA-
The fine North Carolina author, Thomas Wolfe, famously used, “You can’t go home again.”as the title of a novel, which he never lived to publish. His associates took care of that, sometime after his death in 1938, and we have the title as one of the more memorable things with which he is associated. The quote, though, originated with an Australian writer, Ella Winter, who gave Wolfe permission to use it in his writing.
I’ve been going back to Saugus, continuously, since I left here at age 18. Service in the Army, college, a quixotic two years getting my bearings in Maine, and then Arizona, South Korea and back to Arizona, all have had a common denominator: Hometown has never gone away.
There have been changes: The population has grown, from 25,000 to about 38,000; traffic has increased accordingly; the once lily-white community has opened its doors to people of colour; Hilltop Steak House has given way to Restaurant 110; most of the neighbours have died or moved away.
There are, though, things which endure: My mother is still living, quite well; two boyhood friends still live in the neighbourhood-one in his childhood home; Adams Avenue, the street of my youth, is still within walking distance of both Saugus Center and Cliftondale Square-as well as the West Side’s large shopping mall, Square One; traffic on U.S. Route One can still be daunting at times, though after dealing for so long with traffic in much larger cities, I know not to cringe.
We had the usual family gathering, this time at a niece’s large, beautiful new home, about 1 1/2 hours west of here and dropped in on a nephew and his family, in a town twenty minutes south of Saugus. These visits are fleeting, but far better than not seeing these gracious, beloved people at all. There was a visit to the aforementioned 110, where I got my fix of fried clams, a boyhood staple. There were the customary Hallmark movies and binge watching of old episodes of “Blue Bloods”, one of Mom’s favourites. There was a surprise, when Mom decided to check out a couple of Marvel films, on SyFy. She had enough, after “Iron Man”, but “Spider Man” was a hit.
I come from large families, on both sides. There are many cousins, some I haven’t seen in years, and a few aunts and uncles still living. The group will hopefully get together in late August. Though I won’t be there, people have to start with what they have available. I have been able to connect with a cousin in the Midwest, as you know, and will hopefully make more connections, in future visits. Gradually, the in-gathering progresses-with social media at least keeping the ties from fraying.
So, not to judge Ella Winter, for the circumstances of her life, but I CAN, and do, go home again. If nothing else, home remains in the heart. We four, and our extended family, want Mom to keep on, so long as life offers her a measure of blessing. May she keep the flame, until it’s time to pass the torch on.
NEXT: Amherst and Its Halls of Learning