Going Home

Years ago I read a novel by Thomas Wolfe entitled “You Can’t Go Home Again.”  It was a long novel.  Pages and pages and pages exploring the question, “Can one go home again?”  By the end of the book, I was moved to say, “No way.”  But now I’m not so sure.

Surely you can’t go back to your childhood.  That is a time that has passed.  Maybe you can’t go home to stay.  After all–both you and the place from which you come have changed.  And yet….Unknown

I’m writing from Dunn Brothers coffee shop in St. Paul, Minnesota.  Years ago, it was Guertin Drug Store–a pharmacy and ice cream parlor that served the best mint chocolate chip a person could buy.  I look out the window and I see the dental office that housed the friendly dentist who capped my teethbefore I told my parents what really had happened in that tackle football game they had forbidden me to play.  Then my glance shifts to the south.   The Carnegie Library that opened worlds to me.

 

St. Anthony Park Library, St. Paul, Minnesota

St. Anthony Park Library, St. Paul, Minnesota

It’s not only this place that takes me back to that day.  It’s also the occasion the brings me home to Minnesota in the midst of a cold and snowy winter.  I’m here to say “farewell” to my late mother’s last remaining friend. I’m here to mark the passing of a generation.  And I’m here to remember and give thanks for the life of the woman to whom I fled when I chipped my teeth in the football game so long ago.

They held the service in St. Anthony Park Congregational Church–the church my parents and my grandparents attended.  The church that made me feel at home.  As I sat in the pew, I looked around and saw those who had sat in those pews so many years ago:  the three old men, all standing and sitting as one–they never sang but they always had their books open and their mouths moving;  my grandmother, looking away uncomfortably as our family dog marched into church one warm summer morning; my mother on her ninetieth birthday feted by the church that had been her home her whole life.

st. Anthony park church

Towards the end of the reception, I snuck off.  I wanted to see the church again through the eyes of the child I was when last I was a part of that community.

As I stepped into the world below the steps, the years disappeared.  The kitchen had not changed since the time my father and his buddies washed up after coffee hour!  And the back rooms and hidden passages that had intrigued me as a child still beckoned kids and kids at heart to explore their mysterious halls.  The memories washed over me–Dr. Tselos kicking me out of Sunday School when he had had enough of my mischief; Bob Brasted leading thirteen-year-olds through the great stories in the Bible; and best of all–I’ve saved the best for last–the window I snuck out of almost every Sunday one year when Sunday School was particularly boring!

That church welcomed me, nurtured me, accepted me, loved me.  That church knew me as a beloved child of God and taught me (more in retrospect than at the time) that the God who created a little imp also loved that imp.

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