You can’t go home again

I keep thinking of Hilary Mantel, winner of the Booker Prize, twice. The New Yorker did a wonderful article on her in which she referenced an old belief that one must return to one’s own country within 10 years of leaving or risk never fitting in again (she lived abroad for 9 years before returning to England). We’ve been out five years now but I already feel that old adage wrapping me up in string. I feel a part of Rome; I am becoming etched in its stone. Perhaps it is in my blood, my grandmother being Sicilian, or perhaps I have simply fallen in love with the Italian way of life; I have.

Halloween just passed. I think of the holiday back home, the costumes, candy, fright. To what end? Halloween is All Saints Day here in Italy. It is a day to remember those who have passed, to be with family, feast in honor of the dead. Everything has weight here; everything rests here.

When I returned to the States earlier this year it was like walking into an old closet and putting on your favorite sweater. I felt warm, at ease, comfortable. But then I started to notice how some buttons were missing, a tear where I had not known there to be one, fabric scratching my skin. When I caught my reflection in a mirror I realized the sweater no longer fit me.

I’ve met many ex-pats here, there, around who move like currents over the earth or find new shells to grow old in far away from where they were born and raised. When you no longer see through your culture’s eyes can it still be called home?

16 thoughts on “You can’t go home again

  1. I found this post fascinating. wish it was longer. your writing is mesmerizing.
    well, I sure know what you’re talking about. living in israel my entire life, I know what it’s like to feel out of place, isolated, estranged. I never liked it here, and that’s an understatement. never referred to this place as “home”, NEVER. I don’t care I was born here, don’t care I’m familiar with the culture & the language, don’t care what I’m supposed to be feeling; I simply don’t.
    I’m glad you’ve found a place to call a home. rome must be great 🙂

  2. you said it well-a tricky one- I have been away for 8 years and don’t really think about my future plans…until I go back home for the holidays…not sure how I feel about going back, I know it will be tough if I choose to do it.

  3. I really hope you’ll write a book one day – your writing is so easy to read and enables readers who haven’t shared your experiences to instantly understand them. Getting a notification of a new post at red dirt lattes is almost as exciting as getting a good doppio ristretto, here’s to many more!

  4. Sabrina, I can see from this and previous posts your mind is transfixed with many unanswered questions of your sense of place in this world. This is understandable for an expat.

    As a retired professor, I revert to my old habit of defining key terms. What is home? Security, warmth, familiarity, a place of memory, a place that was, a place that is, a place to be? Home…………a place to fill in the blank!

    As time goes by, home is never what we think it is or should be, as we are never the person we think we should be or are.

    Perhaps a home is a place to put to put down our head, always restless with familiarity, always searching for new moments, a moment in ever changing time!

    Seymour Schwartz

  5. Warm, at ease and comfortable is so inviting…but that doesn’t mean it’s permanent or exclusive. That feeling may always exist, even if you’re drawn in another direction. There’s more than one chapter in the story of life.

  6. Malcolm Cowley, who wrote the evocative “Exiles Return” was also a poet, and wrote in “Blue Juniata”:

    for sometimes a familiar music hammers
    like blood against the eardrums, paints a mist
    across the eyes, as if the smells of lilacs,
    moss roses, and the past became a music
    made visible, a monument of air.

  7. Your reflections strike a similar chord within me. I’m at a similar point in my life, having grown up in Wisconsin but now living in another state 10 years longer than I thought I ever would. Maybe it comes with raising, and being home with children, as I am. We start to identify with their stage of life and so we are caught between nostalgia and the nostalgia for nostalgia, since, as you say, “you can’t go home again.” I used to think I could go home easily, and I could, but as time has gone on, I find myself fitting in better where I am, but I still WANT to at least feel that I could fit in where I used to fit in. So, it sort of makes the desire for the past that much stronger, it traps it inside of you, because now it isn’t as easily attainable. You can’t JUST go back.

  8. I really like your writing style. I am a fiction writer myself, but haven’t published yet. Only an award for a short-story. Been writing down ideas in my journal literally for years, on a daily basis, and have 4 chapters written on a book, though. Have you published anything?

    1. Haven’t published yet. My story collection is still in progress and going very slowly, as I am devoting most of my time to my studies. Once I graduate, I will write full time. Congratulations on your award! And thank you for your kind words.

  9. Sliding Home

    The most circuitous path taken has led me here. Just last night, Jan 6, 2014, I finally can say I’ve seen every episode of Sliders, thanks to NetFlix. In the 1990s I was living on Long Island in New York, starting my consulting business. By the time I was really into the show, the biz was taking on a life of its own, free time grew ever shorter, and I can remember being mad at myself for missing yet another episode of a show with a clever premise and an excellent cast. By the time I caught my breath, the show was in the throws of chaos from the Pekinpah/Torme disagreements, and it wound down and eventually was snuffed out.

    Fastforward to NetFlix, and I finally got caught up. But what an abysmal treatment was doled out to my “fave,” Sabrina! How could they get away with such a gross mistreatment of a beloved character? It would be like having Elizabeth Bennet stop being mentioned in Pride & Prejudice only to hear that she “died of fever,” or something of the sort. What a heartache, and what an outrage. I cannot imagine what you were feeling as they forced you to do voiceovers for “Requiem.”

    I hope you are finding your own Pax Romana now as you stay in the eternal city. Roman coins and Latin are hobbies of mine. I am ever on the lookout for a Quadriggatus Didrachma in excellent condition. A chariot drawn by 4 horses with ROMA in embossed letters, quite the impressive coin if you have ever seen one.

    I hope you find a way to slide home before the 10-year milestone. I wish you health and happiness always.

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