Author Thomas Wolfe quite famously wrote: “You can’t go home again.” As I write this week’s blog I am at Chicago’s O’Hare airport awaiting a flight to my current residence of more than 30 years; my adopted home of Detroit. This past weekend, I had the good fortune to renew acquaintances with my native town, Champaign, Illinois and, even more notably, a friend I have not seen in more than 20 years. Wolfe is dead wrong.
Homecoming weekend, aptly enough, pitted my alma mater the Fighting Illini of the University of Illinois, against my youngest daughter’s current school, Michigan State. And while the game was quite painful for me to watch in windy 50-degree conditions (Illinois lost 42-3), it allowed me the opportunity to reconnect with a friend from high school and college that I literally had not seen since he stood up at my wedding 22-plus years ago (and I at his a month or two prior to that). The experience was like opening up a time capsule of experiences – and finished sentences.
They say when you are married long enough you start to finish each other’s thoughts. But that dynamic is not just limited to the betrothed. “What gate do we enter for our seats?” my friend asked. “226 I answered.” “220-221, whatever it takes,” he intoned back, a reference to a line regarding voltage from Michael Keaton in the movie “Mr. Mom” that I totally got (and someone else I had used the line on in recent days had not). Our time together broke the seal on a vault of positive shared memories that touched on everything from school to recreation to pop culture; still as fresh as the day they occurred.
When you’ve lived away from your roots for so long, with day-to-day and year-to-year responsibilities getting in the way of staying in touch, it is easy to lose sight of how important a role some individuals have played in your life. The afternoon refreshed my brain cells and reminded me how often many of my fondest memories, from a teenager to my early 20s, involved this particular individual and other friends I am no longer in touch with, save perhaps the occasional Facebook post or IM. You can go home again, all right – and should more often.