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October 25, 2014


Most historians credit the first Homecoming as a pitched battle of football teams between Baylor and Southwestern University in 1909. The idea is as simple as a Kegger: when the football team comes back from a road trip for a home game you throw a party.

Alumni return and relive. Football teams have rallies. Students and alumni feel justified in mental distortion.

As I prepare to depart for the first (and last) intentional Homecoming without a child in full participation, I realize returning to a home port happens everyday to everybody at some point in their lives.

As babies humans receive and arrive fresh everywhere they go: the sense of return comes only after memory develops. Feeling the fulfillment of memory: living in nostalgia real time, Homecoming can be eating your favorite meal, seeing Field of Dreams again (and again) or just seeing someone you have lost touch with.

But it involves physical contact and experience – embodying memory in context.

As with everything fraught with conditions of emotional intensity, Homecoming can fail to live up to expectations, be fearfully anticipated, or simply suck. The person you once loved is a jerk. The apartment you rocked it with in your New Urban Life is a dump. The football team loses 38-3. In the rain. With drunks.

But most daunting are the Homecomings you do not control. When you have to go to a Thanksgiving of freaks you have to call relatives it’s nostalgia writ psychotic. When that pain in you knee returns in familiar despair. When you find yourself alone. Again.

Coming home has the rosy glow that home is sweet, that its where your heart is, that you can go home again. But places have value based on their reality, not on desire. Truth be told, many of us want our children to be Mini-Me’s – psycho-homecomings of ego extension. Absent cloning and a replicated upbringing to yours, your children are just who they are.

When I drove by a place of deep despondency I had not seen in 35 years I was literally going to a home I was had, but it was like touching a hot stove, not a portal to a place of safety and nurture:quite the opposite?

Homecoming may have a great brand, but like any other experienced reality, it’s complicated.

More complicated as we get older (and old). More places we have left. More places to return to, whether we like it or not. And the Final Homecoming – the Big Return is to a place we have never been, all know is coming and have spun any millions of “takes”, rationalizations, denials and romantic dodges to skew its completely alien truth: we, and all the living, stop living this life.

Whether we are running away from home, becoming lost forever, or returning to a state of Grace is unknowable. Faith is hope, but memory is truth: but a subjective one. That same house I visited a few years ago was a place where another family grew up after we left in happiness.

Reinvention has particular necessity in desperation. But renewal in Homecoming happens too. I created the only home I have ever wanted to come home to, but I leave it so briefly, only short term memory is involved. As the years go by, that type of Homecoming might be the most sustainable.

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