Can We Go Home Again?

Can We Go Home Again?
Memory sketch of the back view of our old home

On facebook the other day, a divorced father and friend of mine (from one of the first divorce support groups I belonged to) posted an interesting set of photos. The status update read “went to see the old house today with the kids. We peeked inside the windows and went in the backyard. I planted that tree and look how big it is now.” He had some of his old photos mixed in with photos he took of the kids beside the tree today. I thought it was really great how he had images of 10 years ago and today, how the kids and trees had grown. Bitter-sweet, I think.

It got me thinking about my recent view of my old marital home, where my babies were born. I didn’t get to walk around and peek in windows. My view was a virtual one. I couldn’t see the back of the house but this sketch is from memory. It’s obvious I’m not an architect ๐Ÿ˜‰ I must practice my sketching skills but I digress.

One of the biggest changes during divorce is the loss of the marital home. Some couples agree to have one spouse continue to live in the home, presumably the parent who is the primary caregiver. Often though, it is short lived. Unexpected expenses during the divorce process can cause a couple to re-examine the arrangement and many choose to sell the home. Eventually, the spouse will come to terms with the fact that it’s too expensive to continue living in the marital home. While it was designed for an intact family, now there is only half. Sometimes there’s only one person (during weeks the children are with the other parent) rattling around in a home that doesn’t fit them anymore. Not unlike when you lose weight and there’s too much room in your clothes (I have no idea why I used that comparison, since it usually works the other way, at least for me). Same thing. It’s time to go down a size and find a home that better fits you and your lifestyle.

As practical a decision as this is there is always emotional strings attached. If it was the home the children were born in for example, you’re bound to be emotionally attached to it. The backyard full of memories and sounds of a different time. A time of innocence with a little denial on the side. Birthday parties, dinner parties, arguments, first days of school, legos, fresh baked cookies, snow days, friends over to play, messes to clean, cats to rescue, dogs to be found…and the list goes on…

That was then, this is now.

Before my ex and I separated we moved out of our marital home that we had lived in for 14 years. We moved into our dream home. The dream home didn’t save us and my memories aren’t of that home. It’s the one we lived in for 14 years that I will always remember and view as the marital home. The one with the hand drawn growth chart on the kitchen door frame.

Recently I looked up the old address and google earth popped up with an image. I was surprised at what I saw. It was the old homestead alright but ya know what? It looked so small and insignificant in the image. It looked the same as all the other homes on the street. Not to mention, someone had torn up the yard. Literally, they had removed all the shrubs and a few of the trees we planted and nurtured all the years we lived there. We couldn’t afford to landscape the yard until the second or third year we lived there and when we began the process it was a slow one. Each year one or two more tiny trees and a hedge here and a vine there. I put a great deal of effort into it, really. Gone. All gone. Ugly.

The house looked kind of neglected. I stared at my computer screen and felt lost. Was that how my neighborhood looked 12 years ago when we moved? I don’t think so. Or do my images in my head of my first home not quite match reality? It simply could be a question of time taking its toll on the property(ies). Maybe google earth cameras skew the image so badly that they look uglier, smaller and unkempt? It’s just a capture of a moment in time after all. Maybe the house was having a bad day? Were those cracks in the sidewalk there before and I just never noticed them?

sketch of osland close house edited


As my facebook friend said “I guess it’s true what they say, you really can’t go back home, eh?” I guess not.

Sometimes, it’s better to keep our memories in our head rather than try to revisit them literally. The place is rarely the same as we left it, whether time has ravished it, or the new inhabitants fail to care for it as much as you did. Either way, the reality today won’t be the same as the memory of the place in your mind. Sad but true. Of course, we’re not meant to look backwards because we’re not going that way.

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Did you look back and regret it? Did the revisit of a ‘place or house’ live up to your memory?

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36 Replies to “Can We Go Home Again?”

  1. Very nice and thought-provoking article. I know exactly what you mean. I did the same thing because of divorce and it was my family home. I often think of what it might be like to move back home, but I agree with you that it would never be the same. I like your writing style. Nice blog. Good luck with everything! Cheers, Lynne

    1. Hi Lynne, thanks for stopping by. I think places change without us but we will always have our memories. Maybe you can go back and see your family home and hopefully it will look as beautiful as when you left it. ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Hi Lisa,

    Loved the sketch ๐Ÿ™‚

    Yes, it’s not easy going back home after all that one goes through in a divorce – things can never be the same. I guess after so many years, it would all look different from what it was earlier – it’s just another house now, not your home, isn’t it?

    Thanks for sharing. Happy weekend ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. “It’s just another house now, not your home”–that’s exactly it, Harleena. Thanks for the reminder. And no, we can’t go back. Happy weekend to you, too!

    2. “It’s just another house now, not your home”–that’s exactly it, Harleena. Thanks for the reminder. And no, we can’t go back. Happy weekend to you, too!

  3. That’s a really good sketch. I like to draw but could never draw three-dimensional.

    When I moved back to the city where I grew up, I went to my old neighborhood to see my childhood home and I almost drove past it! It looks so different. The color, the plants, everything. It made me really sad. I took pictures of the house before we moved out of it and I look at them a lot. I wish I had taken pictures of the inside. Just the other day my mom and I were reminiscing about the house. In particular the master bathroom because it was awesome! lol

    1. Thanks, chrys. It’s fun to ‘doodle’ ๐Ÿ™‚ Good thing you snapped a photo of the house the day you moved. I didn’t do that and should have. I do have lots of interior pics with the kids etc, so that’s great. You felt sad, too? Well, I guess we can’t look back. It seems to be a unanimous feeling here!

  4. It’s probably both – a little of column A and a little of column B. Perhaps places really do physically change, and so do we, so the perspective shifts.
    Beautiful analogy.
    I once went back to my childhood home and I may never do that again…

    1. That’s it, Tamara—the perspective shifts. Definitely. How could it not. I prefer to leave the memories where they belong and not visit the sights as they aren’t the same today. You won’t do it again? Me neither!

  5. My mom still lives in my childhood home but my dad moved into my grandparents home – which was like my safe haven when I was growing up. He changed the entire feel of it. It’s not like what it was. So yes, like you so eloquently put in your post, it’s hard to look back/go home.
    You don’t see it like you remember it. It’s hard sometimes.

    1. It is hard sometimes. How can we reconcile the past with the present? Maybe we’re not supposed to? We can look forward instead and make new memories!

  6. ***โ€œI guess itโ€™s true what they say, you really canโ€™t go back home, eh?โ€ ***

    Not physically…But your true home is always in your heart.

    Sounds Corny as heck, but it’s true. xx

    1. Oh, Kim I agree with that sooooo much. It’s not corny at all. Maybe a small part of our heart also remains in places and people we can’t see anymore.

  7. This is beautifully written but also made me kinda sad. I love my home and cannot imagine anyone else living in it. Our backyard is our sanctuary—it kills me to think of someone else coming in and destroying the gardens we have meticulously kept for 30 years. Hopefully my kids will decide to keep it long after we are gone.

    1. Marcia, that is so great that you and your hubby have been able to stay and make a long time home (30 years!!). Wouldn’t that be great if one of the kids carried on the memories?

  8. Lovely, while I cannot relate to your experience with divorce and the homestead, I can remember when my childhood home went up for sale. My husband and I toured it…it too seemed so much smaller than I remembered. It is funny how our image and reality differ. They say you can never go back, and I guess that is true.

    1. It’s practically unanimous. We all feel we can’t go back. Those who have never left, can’t imagine a different family in their home. Always looking forward. That’s cool you guys got to take a tour of your childhood home many years later.

  9. Hi Lisa,

    Homes can never be the same after we move out but they remain the same in our memories and dreams.
    All my dreams were set in my maternal home years after I had married and moved out to set my own little abode but one fine day I told my brother how I missed that home and we made the mistake of visiting it. Though we could only peep through the main gate, we could never reconcile to the way it had changed! Now I never go back there even in my dreams. Only memories remain.
    Thank you for a soul-stirring post. ๐Ÿ™‚ Hope you are having a nice weekend.

    1. That’s interesting Balroop that your dreams were of your maternal home. I had those dreams too, when I first moved away. You would never go back even in dreams…me too! It’s just walls anyway ๐Ÿ™‚ Luckily they don’t talk.

      1. For me, they can never be walls…at least in dreams! They appear just the same, with all the persons I love and even the ones who entered my life later! That is the best part!!

  10. I thought that was a very lovely sketch of your old house, Lisa. It looks very homey ๐Ÿ™‚ I think you also have the skills to colour it in. I am sorry to hear that your house doesn’t seem to look like what you remembered it. It could be a number of reasons. “That was then, this is now.” So true. The world changes as time moves on.

    Growing up, I moved a lot. My parents moved a lot for work, and so I followed along. I was very attached to the flat I lived in Singapore where I did high school. There was a forest-park right in front of my window. That was ten years ago and I never looked back. Some of my friends have said that forest is now gone ๐Ÿ˜€

    1. Thank you, Mabel. Oh, I should add some color. I sketched it thinking of summer which is the shortest season but most colorful. Your flat in Singapore sounds lovely but now there’s development there too. We can’t go back—that seems to be the consensus here ๐Ÿ™‚

  11. Hi Lisa,

    Excellent observation (and art work, haha)

    You can’t go home. The past can’t be re-created, and probably for good reason. It’s not what’s important in our present moment, our present situation… that’s where our energy and focus needs to be to have a fulfilling life. Not “dreaming” about a past that could never be recovered whether it’s filled with good memories or bad ones.

    I love this article ๐Ÿ™‚


    1. I agree Donna! We are not facing backwards so why look that way? WE can keep the good memories and let go of the rest. Thanks for stopping over ๐Ÿ™‚

  12. Funny…I also looked at my prior home on google earth the other day. It showed me a timeline of how much better it looked after I left. I always wanted to do somethings outside of the house, but my ex didn’t have the wherewithal to help. I’m glad it’s in better hands now.

    1. That’s a nice flip side, Liv. Actually that makes me think of a family property we used to own (with my extended family) and since we sold it, the new owners have made so many beautiful changes to it. It looks like a whole new and more beautiful place. I like it when that happens.

  13. Hi Lisa,

    What a heartfelt post. I love the images. I find I dream a lot of my childhood home. Although I only lived there for 12 years, the memories are with my mother. I find it my safe place.

    It’s true we can go back and like others said, we shouldn’t, right? I love to snoop out places I lived in the past. It’s interesting to me to see how time has changed things.

    Thanks for sharing this.


    1. 12 years is a long time when you’re a kid ๐Ÿ™‚ Usually snooping out the past only dissapoints lol. Thanks, Bren for stopping over!

  14. Hi Lisa,

    I have to be honest, not only was the story touching but it was very emotional for me as a child of divorce.

    When I left home at 17 years old and joined the Navy, I decided I was never going back and that’s exactly what I’ve done. I decided the day I left in 1989 that I wasn’t going to look back and live in the past.

    I’ve been mostly successful thanks to an amazing wife of 23 years and two incredible sons we’ve had together (21 and 14).

    I just wanted you to know that your article touched my soul in a unique way!

    Have a great week!!!!

    ~ Don Purdum

    1. Hi Don, thank you. I always love to hear when my writing tugs at the heartstrings. I can understand why you didn’t look back. Although I visit the city where I raised my kids, I never ask my kids if they want to take a drive to the old house (the one pictured). I’m afraid it will only make them sad, so better to look forward than back. It sounds like the navy experience was a good one for you. So wonderful your wife is so supportive and you sound like you have a happy marriage and family life!

  15. I believe our “loved” homes stay alive in our memories Lisa. It must be hard to leave a home you build as a family. I remember feeling quite sad when my grandma had to sell hers, just after my grandad passed away. I was fond of this house. It does not look the same now. But every time I am around it, I see images of us little kids running around and smiling. Nothing has changed. In my mind and heart.
    Have a lovely day.

    1. Yes! “I believe our โ€œlovedโ€ homes stay alive in our memories…” and I guess that’s where we should leave them. Nice to hear you have those happy memories, Marie!

  16. Hi Lisa,

    I vibe with your closing point. Grew up in a loving fam – with some probs but my parents did their absolute best – but things have changed dramatically over the past 4 years. My mom is late-stage Alzheimers so when I visit home to take care of her, to give my dad time to himself, any romanticized issues of my childhood house quickly change to the present. I take care of mom with love but it’s difficult to do the more uncomfortable things I do to care for her. The past is gone, and our current family life – when we’re all together – reminds me how change is the one constant and how there’s no sense grasping at the past. Just gotta be present and do our best to be grateful, loving and happy with what is.

    Wonderful blog and post Lisa.

    Thanks for sharing ๐Ÿ™‚


    1. Hi Ryan, that must be so hard to go through—watching your mother’s memory deteriorate. Change is the constant that’s so true. Sounds like you’re taking it in stride. The memories will always be there. Thanks for stopping by and sharing here, Ryan.

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