Thomas Wolfe said You Can’t Go Home Again–and created a character that took to travelling and built a new life. For us? The word is “go home and stay home”

by Jaqueline McLeod Rogers

Changing days and roles: what has struck me, as a mother of 2 adult daughters–learning from them and from my young adult students–is how much is changed: so much life is online, so many jobs dissolved. Recently ordered by authorities to “go home and stay home”, many had to define where/ what home might be.

I told my adult children they could come back if they wanted, so they had “the luxury” of open doors. But that’s not quite right, the reference to having “the luxury” of returning to my place! In the best of worlds–the world I knew as young person–going home wouldn’t be a thing–wouldn’t be a social obligation. From generations earlier than mine, there was the edict from the American novel that “you can’t go home again.”

SO: what are we offering kids if/when we say the door of the family home is open? Returning, our kids are bound to note that everything has changed: that there are now new bars/chains restricting travel and dreams and goals.

AND: What about young people who don’t have open doors?

The pandemic and virus provides so many levels of challenge, but probably takes sharpest aim at young people. Learning about limits. About what you shouldn’t and can’t do. About tribal responsibility replacing personal liberty. As I write this I am listening to Tom Connors do Johnny Cash’s”I’ve Been Everywhere” (on the radio, as background, beloved now as an ironic celebration of unrestricted travel); instead of thinking “he’s a bad singer,” I am thinking “he was such a lucky guy.”

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