You Can't Go Home Again

This is my home in Silver Spring as it looked after World War II. Later, my parents had the side porch enclosed with adjustable louvers. Through much of the year, we could relax there in comfort and read or listen to the radio.
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In the fall of 1945, Mom and Dad headed their old Chevy out of Harlingen, Texas toward Silver Spring. I could scarcely wait to get there. We had been away for more than 2 years. And I wanted to go home. I imagined my neighborhood ... my world ... would be the same as when we left. Was I in for a surprise! Things were different.

Some changes were obvious the minute we drove around the corner and pulled into the driveway. "Where was the huge field in the next block?" I wondered. The one filled with wild blackberry bushes where my Dad and I would pick buckets of those juicy berries. My Mom would can them or make blackberry jam. The field was gone. In its place was a bunch of new houses. Government had grown rapidly in wartime. Employees by the tens of thousands flocked to Washington to work for Uncle Sam. Homes were sprouting up everywhere in the Washington area including our quiet little neighborhood. The vacant lots we loved to play in were vanishing. And not just in our block ... it was everywhere and it was more than just housing and vanishing vacant lots.

In a later chapter, I'll tackle the subject of change. You could fill a whole book ... several books ... just discussing the way our world has changed since 1945.

There was a more subtle change in my young life, too. It involved the very nature of my childhood playmates and me. As little children, we all wanted and did the same simple things. We played softball or marbles. We rode our bikes. Or listened to the radio after school.

But as we approached our teens, childhood playmates were giving the first hints of what they would become as adults. We were gradually growing apart. It would take awhile but it was happening. And so, after high school, we headed off in different directions ... scattering to the four winds in pursuit of different interests. At least one, Jimmy Jones, is dead. I was very close to Jimmy as a child. He died of a heart attack while I was still in college. I have kept track of two of the gang. However, most have gone their separate ways and I have no idea what became of them. I wish it were otherwise.

The author Thomas Wolfe wrote a novel entitled "You Can't Go Home Again." In later life, I would discover that book and read it. But I already knew what he was talking about. I learned Thomas Wolfe's lesson when we came back from Texas.