You Can’t Go Home Again

The title of Thomas Wolfe’s novel You Can’t Go Home Again has become an expression — better known than the novel itself — to describe nostalgia for a bygone lifestyle after moving on to something else … something “bigger” … something “better.” I first left my little hometown of Bishopville many years ago, first to go to a residential high school not too far away, then to college three hours away, then to grad school six hours away, and then to work in DC seven hours away. I came out of the closet, I went back to law school, I became a “big city lawyer” in DC, I met a Frenchman and married him, and then I pulled up stakes and went off to lead a bohemian life in Paris. Even after all of that, I still wonder how true that expression is —

Can I really not go home again?

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“The Pain of the Country”

Tomorrow is September 11, but this blogpost won’t focus on the tragedy of that day 10 years ago that will forever mark me and those who witnessed or were personally touched by the events and their aftermath. I could never do it justice—I could never adequately put my sentiments into words. Silent reflection is how I plan to mark this somber moment tomorrow.

But this anniversary necessarily brings home to mind. Being a stranger in a strange land is never an easy thing, and at moments like this, the disconnectedness is amplified, the distance is more expansive, the ache to go back is more painful. The French have an interesting expression for what we call homesickness. They call it le mal du pays (literally, “the pain of the country”) and, somehow, it seems appropriate this weekend to speak of a yearning for something much larger than even my family and friends—a yearning for my home … my homeland … my country.

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