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Going Home Again

John W. Pinkerton


When I first arrived in the Brazos valley where I have now lived for fifty-five years, I was twenty-five years old and fresh out of a two-year stint with the Army.

My hometown, Pineville, Louisiana, was different from Bryan, Texas, where I reunited with my parents.  To me, Bryan/College Station seemed a little backward.  Come to think of it, I still feel that way.

My folks had moved to Bryan about a year before my return from the Army thus my arrival there.

Growing up I encountered a lot of different towns as we moved around the country: Pinebluff, Little Rock, New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Los Angeles, Houston.  Dad was in the construction business and followed the work.

Because I was born in Pineville and was able to spend four years of high school there and it was the area we lived in the most through the years, I've always considered that my hometown.

My years in high school were 1956 through '60.  For me that was a magical time.

I think that when I returned from the Army, I assumed I would at some point move back to Louisiana…maybe even Pineville.

That never happened.

I got a job I liked, married a girl that I liked and moved to Somerville, a town of about fifteen hundred twenty-five miles down the road from Bryan/College Station.

I still missed Louisiana.

Time passed and with each passing year I seemed to long for Louisiana less and less.  About the time I reached fifty, the longing disappeared and I was pleased that I was in Texas not Louisiana.

When I first became aware of Wolfe's novel, I said to myself, “Of course you can go home.”  I now realize what Thomas Wolfe said, “You can't go home again,”  is absolutely true because the “home” you remember no longer exists.

If I went back to Pineville, I wouldn't find many old friends: many have died or moved away.  I wouldn't find old haunts: progress has destroyed most of the businesses I frequented: clothing stores, drive-ins and movie houses and bars.  I can't speak for the soul of the town.  A brief visit isn't likely to reveal that.

My conviction that one really can't go home again was verified by watching folks return to our little town of Somerville.

In recent years, I've watched retirees return from their lives spent making a living in larger communities for their entire careers.

Upon retirement, they long for the good old days and a place they felt comfortable, sell their homes, and imagine that they're returning to the home of their youth.

I've observed some of these folks returning and to a large extent, it's been disastrous for them.

Unfortunately, they not only physically returned home, they also brought with them erroneous assumptions.

They assume that little has changed in their hometown.  Holy moly.  That, of course, is not true.  The people change and the institutions change as is true of most places in the world.

Many folks return with an attitude which doesn't act to their advantage: “In my years in the big city, I've gotten smarter than the local 'yokels.'”  Not true, the original “yokels” have learned the same stuff the voyager has, and many of the local “yokels” are imported yokels---not the same folks.

Another wrong assumption can be summed up in the phrase, “Everybody knows me.”  Holy crap.  I don't care what your claim to fame might have been in your salad days. Nope, hardly anyone knows you. 

So…if you plan to return to your “hometown,” make no assumptions and be prepared to live in a place very different from the one you left years ago.