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Returning Home: Is It Possible?

Updated on July 22, 2014
Working in our yard
Working in our yard
Now a bike store, this once was the Proctor Dime Store where mom worked.
Now a bike store, this once was the Proctor Dime Store where mom worked.
The old home on 18th and Monroe
The old home on 18th and Monroe
Our neighborhood
Our neighborhood
Our church, St. Patrick Church
Our church, St. Patrick Church

“There is something greatly re-assuring about returning home to find your childhood neighborhood unchanged. In a world of constant change and turbulence it was so nice for me to find that time had stood still where I grew up. The most formative twenty years of my life were spent there and so many lessons learned on that street.

Many of my core values were taught to me by those neighbors. The values of friendship and of keeping a watchful eye on those you care about were taught to me there. The values of being courteous, of respectful social interaction and of hard work were handed down as were providing for family, generosity towards others and acts of kindness for others during hard times.

The lessons were learned daily through observation and by becoming a part of a small community that cared about their own. We helped each other in large tasks, rooted on the kids while they played games and shared in block parties and barbeques. There was always a feeling of an extended family there for me.

Those days are gone now as we all moved on eventually, but the lessons learned remain with me. I don’t know where they all are now; many dead I’m sure, some moved away. If they were here now I would thank them for taking me under their wing and caring for me so well.”

THE TRIP

I wrote those words in my journal shortly after returning to my childhood neighborhood after having been away for quite a long time.

I’m not sure what I expected when I drove to Tacoma a couple months ago with the express purpose of seeing my old childhood home and neighborhood. I have driven by the area many times over the years since I moved out at the age of twenty-five, but never had really stopped and walked around and dredged up memories from the past like I did that day.

MEMORIES

My family moved to the little brick home on 18th Street when I was five and there I remained until I was twenty-five. The neighborhood was rich with children my age and over the years we formed friendships and bonds that lasted for decades. It was there that I established social skills, there that I honed athletic skills, there that my father died and there that I met my first girlfriend. In that neighborhood I found my first job, working in the Proctor Bowling Alley setting pins and keeping score at tournaments. It was there that my mother worked at the Proctor Dime Store and there that I ran for Precinct Committeeman in my first and only attempt at politics. It was there that I got my first dog, Pixie, who would be my constant companion for eighteen years, and there that I mowed lawns and shoveled walks for neighbors to earn spending money. It was there that I got my first car, a 1969 Camaro, and there that I grew to be a man when dad died shortly after my 20th birthday.

The memories flooded through me that day. I remembered the shortcuts I used to take to friends’ homes and amazingly I remembered the names of each of my neighbors during those years. I remembered making fun of Mr. Lilly almost daily after his family bought a small Volvo and he would contort his body to get into it. I remembered the sadness when that same Lilly family lost their oldest son to leukemia. I remembered seeing my next-door neighbor wheeled out of his house on a stretcher, white sheet covering his head, after he committed suicide when he was 102 years of age, and I remembered Mrs. Mertz bringing me comic books when I had the flu.

When it snowed the neighbors would block off the street and they would line the road while the kids sledded down the ice-covered 18th Street, hollering encouragement and pelting us with snowballs as we slid by. I remembered holding Mrs. Stine while her home burned to the ground one cold December night as the snow tried in vain to put out the fire, and I remembered the cold that would not leave my bones that January when my dad died.

I would climb the apple tree in our backyard and survey the neighborhood for hours, safe and content hidden amongst the branches, and I would partake in the almost daily games of baseball, football, and basketball with the other kids on our block.

LESSONS LEARNED

I encountered meanness and hatred at times growing up there, racial and religious bigotry for sure, but I also encountered caring and love and a genuine bond that formed from house to house as each neighbor believed that you take care of your own. It was, in effect, a microcosm of society in general and it prepared me well for the world I would enter when I finally left that home.

Bev was with me that day and she remarked that I had had a marvelous childhood, so different from hers, and that she was jealous. And that’s when it hit me, that I truly did have a wonderful childhood. I had loving parents, concerned neighbors and learned practically every lesson I would need in future years during the interaction within that social setting. It was a safe place to grow up; I could make mistakes and yet know that I wouldn’t be blamed or shamed for making them. I knew that there was always someone to cover my back each and every day, that I was not alone and that no matter what happened the next day would bring unlimited possibilities.

Those days truly are gone now. I suspect that most if not all of the neighbors are dead; I know for a fact six of the kids I grew up with died. Henry, Bobby, and Bill died of cancer. Sharon was beaten to death by a jealous and violent husband. Danny died in Vietnam and Jackie in a car accident. Karl went on to own his own construction firm and I have lost track of him and the others over the years. My mother, father, and sister are all dead and I have no doubt that they are joined in their new neighborhood by many of the others who used to share a beer with them on hot summer nights at the corner of 18th and Monroe.

I miss them all and I miss those times, but the lessons that were passed on to me have now been passed on to my son and that’s as it should be. It is the way of life, the constant flow of information and lessons learned that provide the common thread for all of us. Bev was right of course; I am a lucky man for having been raised in that neighborhood.

I know quite a few of my adult friends who had horrific childhoods, devoid of love, lacking in so many of the things I took for granted during my upbringing. Some experienced abandonment, some abuse, some indifference, and they marvel at the life I had as a child. Yes, I am a lucky man.

REFLECTIONS

I was a bit surprised by the emotions that flowed that day; I’m still not sure what to make of it but obviously those emotions needed to be released and so they were. I doubt that I will return; there really is no reason to. I managed to see and experience all that I needed to that day. Some inner hunger was satisfied and now I can move on.

I finished that day at the cemetery where I visited the gravesites of my mom, dad, aunt , grandma and grandpa. I did not shed a tear because that visit to the cemetery was not about sadness but rather about remembering all that had been good in my life. I said a silent thank you to my relatives before we left to return to Olympia. I’m not sure if they heard me but I just felt better saying it. It turns out you really can go home again!

Have you ever gone back to visit your childhood neighborhood?

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    • Melovy profile image

      Yvonne Spence 5 years ago from UK

      Your home-coming sounds like an amazing day. I’m not surprised it was emotional after all that time and with all those memories, especially of those no longer alive. I like that you include both the positive and negative aspects of life in your old neighbourhood.

      I go home to my old neighbourhood at least once a year, because my parents still live where I grew up.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      It was an amazing day, much more so than I would have guessed. I'm really glad you enjoyed my hub and I truly do appreciate you being so supportive.

    • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image

      Marcy Goodfleisch 5 years ago from Planet Earth

      What a touching journey in time! I like the way you took us with you by painting the picture of what life was like, and mentioning those who have now passed on. It seems every few years when my high school group gathers, we have yet more names to read in our memorial list.

      Congrats, by the way, on having 50 hubs!!! I'm trying to catch up as fast as I can!

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Marcy, your words are most gracious and I appreciate them greatly. The trip home gave me a great appreciation for the gifts I was given when I was young; the trip was so worth it. Thank you!

    • Ruchira profile image

      Ruchira 5 years ago from United States

      Loved your hub Bill.

      I also got an opportunity to visit my neighborhood where I was born and raised and yes, with times changing...that neighborhood had also changed. The paints of most of the homes was different and the décor outside each home was so modern. Needless to say even the humans had changed...lol

      However, my memories remained intact and that made that trip memorable.

      thank you for making me go back to my time. Priceless, hub!

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Ruchira, you are much too kind but I thank you. It was an interesting experience for me and one I am so happy I did. I appreciate your following, as always! Peace to you!

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 5 years ago from SW England

      Voted up, interesting and beautiful. I'm very attached to my childhood home and have been there often since I left; my childhood was sheltered, fun and loving, like yours but obviously in a different country. I think memories like that are so important; the past creates our present and our future. I like showing my children and grandchildren as family history needs to be passed on and shown to be relevant; my 11 year old granddaughter is particularly interested in history. Thanks for another great read; the recollections are clear and obviously dear.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      They are, annart, and so important to hold onto. I fully reaize that I was lucky as so many of my friends did not have what I have. I love having the foundation of love and support that I was given at an early age.

      You know of course that I greatly appreciate you? I hope you do...thank you!

    • urmilashukla23 profile image

      Urmila 5 years ago from Rancho Cucamonga,CA, USA

      Priceless Hub. Thank you for giving us an opportunity to go back to our child hood memory lane too. I do visit there every couple of years

      I have enjoyed this hub. Thank you so much for posting it. Voted up.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      urmilashukla23, you are very welcome and I thank you for taking the time to read and comment. We all have great memories to call upon when we need them most.

    • old albion profile image

      Graham Lee 5 years ago from Lancashire. England.

      Well done billybuc. Your hub made me think of my old home and the neighbours that were there. My old friend of 60 years died recently and memories of our youth came to mind. Yes you hit the spot this time with this first class hub.

      Best Wishes.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      old albion, I thank you sir! For some of us our childhood home was a wonderful place of safety and learning. I'm glad my hub could bring back some memories for you. Thank you, sir, for reading and commenting.

    • BakingBread-101 profile image

      BakingBread-101 5 years ago from Nevada

      This is what I am trying to provide for my daughter. This is what all of us parents are supposed to do--provide a safe haven in which to learn, grow, love (and sometimes totally dislike), and laugh.

      Thanks for another AWESOME hub.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Baking, that is indeed the greatest challenge for a parent. I wish you well in your efforts and thank you for taking the time to once again read one of my hubs.

    • savanahl profile image

      savanahl 5 years ago

      This one brought tears to my eyes. I'm sitting here fighting them off, trying to figure out why but they just keep flowing. Maybe it's a combination of your sweet childhood coupled with all the loss through the years, or maybe it's my own longing for such fond memories. Whatever it is, all I know is that I'll be bookmarking this page to visit again. Thank you for sharing.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Savanah, I have been lucky enough to find a way to reach out to others such as yourself and make a contact of the soul if you will...it is amazing the number of wonderful people I have met who share similar stories and thoughts. I am a very lucky man and I thank you for your loving words.

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 5 years ago from Wales

      What a great hub and thanks for sharing.

      Take care and have a wonderful day.

      Eddy.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Eddy, it was my pleasure. I appreciate you greatly and will be visiting your site shortly after a long-overdue ride in the country.

    • JamaGenee profile image

      Joanna McKenna 5 years ago from Central Oklahoma

      Bill, your childhood was "idyllic" compared to mine. My neighborhood was populated mostly by elderly couples who didn't like kids, or young families who moved on as soon as they could afford something bigger and better. So their kids were never part of the "core group" which consisted of the two brothers a few houses down who just happened to be the same ages as my brother and me, and my best friend who lived one street over. (Oddly, until we were out of high school, she couldn't stand the older of the aforementioned brothers, but they've been married several decades now...go figure!) There were no neighborly BBQs, and we were too far from downtown to consider the town's businesses "part of the neighborhood" as you do.

      The "Core 5" have all moved away but keep in touch. About 3 years ago the younger of "the brothers" called to see if I remembered the name of the family who lived in a certain house, which I didn't. The rest couldn't even remember the house he was talking about, so he drove the hundred miles from his home and snapped a photo of every house on our block and on my bf's block, then posted the pix on a private photo sharing site. A furious round of long distance calls and emails ensued in which we identified the inhabitants of each and every house, and shared whatever we remembered about each! Talk about a trip down Memory Lane!

      The photos have long since been taken down, but thanks to Google Earth, it's possible to take a cyber journey through the neighborhood, which is as close as I ever plan to get.

      Thank you for the wonderful tour of YOUR neighborhood! Every child should grow up in one just like it! ;D

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Jama, I really appreciate your stories and your sharing them with me. I love the friendships that grow through HubPages and as you know I love learning about the lives of each member I meet. Thank you! I did have an idyllic childhood; at the time I had no sense of that and just felt it was all normal. With age I have some to realize just how special my childhood was.

      Appreciation for the little things in life sometimes comes so late that we can't voice our appreciation to the people who deserve it. I guess hubs like this one are my way of shouting to the heavens that I do feel great gratitude for all that was given to me.

      Take care my friend!

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