You Can’t Go Home Again

You Can’t Go Home Again

Over the last several weeks, I’ve struggled with an issue only those of an older age seem to have. Quite simply put, sometimes you can’t go home again. By this, I mean that even though you know that you’re welcome, it just won’t be the same as it was. The decision that I’ve had to make is this: do I want to live with the memories of my youth or should I be a realist.

Let me explain. This year will be my 50th elementary school reunion. It will take place at the church that I attended for the first almost 17 years of my life, Our Lady Help of Christians in Brooklyn, New York. Before my 17th birthday, my family moved to New Jersey.

Over the years, my wife and I have lived in a variety of locations: New Jersey, Wisconsin and currently, Virginia. During our almost 35 years of marriage, we’ve had an apartment and five homes. We’re trying to sell our current home and move into a smaller home.

I’m really tired of cutting the grass and pulling up weeds. I started to add up our expenses for lawn and garden maintenance over the years. We probably could have paid for our daughter’s law school with the money that we spent.

Back to not being able to go home again. I’ve always considered Brooklyn my “hometown” wherever I’ve lived. Be it on the rolling grasslands of the Midwest or in the Piedmont of Virginia, whenever I was asked my hometown, I’ve always put down “Brooklyn.” New Jersey doesn’t really count. After all to most native New Yorkers, it’s just an extension of New York.

But my Brooklyn is not the Brooklyn of today. My Brooklyn is frozen in 1965 when I left for the first time or 1977 when I left for suburbia after our marriage. My Brooklyn is the city of churches. It’s the city of all of those schools named after Our Lady and the Saints. Somewhere in the last 35 years, the Brooklyn of my youth and young manhood has disappeared.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with that. After all, the Brooklyn of the ’60s and ’70s is certainly not like the Brooklyn of my ancestors time. Over the years, I’ve assembled an impressive genealogy of both sides of my family tree. I have relatives buried in almost every major Catholic cemetary in the borough and many more in the Queens cemeteries. So part of me will always be in Brooklyn.

Some of my Dutch ancestors lived in New York in 1652. The Irish ones came in 1852 and the Italians came in 1897. I bet that you didn’t know that I’m 25% Sicilian!

I visited the old neighborhood about 4 years ago and honestly, I almost didn’t recognize it. Change is to be expected but some of the changes were so dramatic that I felt like a stranger in a strange land. I guess the last straw was the news that our school is now a Jewish yeshiva. Now, again, this has nothing to do with religious prejudice but with this news, I realized that the ties that bind me to OLHC are gone.

I’ve decided that I want to remember my school and my class mates as we were not as we are today. I know that sounds like I’m not facing reality, but I guess it’s my choice. I’ll miss you all and I have fond memories of our years together in the hallowed halls of OLHC.

 

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