Boomers: Can You Go Home Again?
Do you baby boomers dream of retiring somewhere new and exciting or are you making plans to go home again to settle down? Can you go home again and will it be the same?
Thomas Wolfe penned the novel, You Can’t Go Home Again. The term became a popular saying, generally meaning if you return to a place from the past, it won’t be the same as you remember. In fact, you may be downright disappointed.
Although opinions vary, Morton H. Shaevitz, Ph.D argued in an article written for Psychology Today that going home again doesn’t necessarily need to be a negative experience – “not if one approaches life in a more optimistic way and understands that while some things may change, some things remain the same, and some things might be even better.”
While I don’t advocate living in the past, in a past blog I noted that “various studies have shown that nostalgic memories can help combat loneliness, provide psychological comfort, raise self-esteem, foster feelings of belonging, help us deal with adversity, and increase optimism about the future.” If that’s the case, why not revisit a place or house that brings back good memories?
But does that mean you should move back home in retirement?
My Personal Experience
For me, home has been many different places. My parents moved a lot. Although I was born in southern California, we moved a half dozen times before I started high school.
Over the years, I’ve revisited some of those places. Sometimes it’s a nice ride down memory lane, but other times my former home or town has gone downhill.
For example, I briefly lived in Willits, located in northern California, famous for the Skunk Train that travels through the beautiful forests to Fort Bragg. My parents bought a lot in the countryside and we lived in a mobile home when I was 10. Our backyard was a kid’s paradise with a small creek, wild blackberry bushes, and plenty of room to wander. One of my childhood friends lived nearby on acres of land with a pond, cows, and woods to explore.
When I went back to visit decades later, the vacant land was now home to rundown apartment complexes. My friend’s parents had sold their land which was parceled off to build homes and unrecognizable. After my visit, I wished I had stuck with my wonderful childhood memories of the place.
On the other hand, I just got back from revisiting my old home in Washington State.
Missing Our Old Digs
In the late 90s, my husband, Scott, and I along with our two sons, Jonathan and Christopher, moved to Puyallup. My daughter-in-law, Johnni, had never visited the state, so we planned a 10-day vacation there in our camping trailers.
When she saw our old neighborhood, she asked, “Why did you ever leave this place?”
We only lived there for three years, but I missed it when we moved back to the California desert. Washington always held a special place in my heart.
Last time we visited – a whopping 18 years ago while on a book signing tour – every time we took a freeway heading south, I’d tease hubby. “Please don’t take me south! We can still turn around.”
While we were in Puyallup, we met my cousin, Rhonda, who still lives there, at Wildwood Park. Memories rushed back of the days when we walked our chow, Sydney, in these beautiful woods.
The rain had washed out the stairs to the playground, and as we climbed down the steep path, a young mother rushed over to help us.
“That’s another reason I miss Washington,” I told Johnni. “The people here are down-to-earth and more relaxed.” In fact, Johnni was amazed at how friendly and helpful all the parents proved to be.
Reminiscing About My Reporter Days
When we lived there, I worked as a newspaper reporter for The Puyallup Herald, formerly known as the Pierce County Herald.
One of the most exciting jobs I’ve ever had – and one of the most stressful due to the tight deadlines.
But I loved going to work and not knowing where I’d end up or who I would be interviewing that day.
I wrote features about a local doctor who visited Albania as a volunteer to help ethnic Albanian refugees forced out of Kosovo by Serb forces, adults who were adopted and later reunited with their birth parents (the outcomes were not always positive), a three-part series on the homeless, a story about a man’s memories of World War II, and an article about an 83-year-old widow who traveled to 183 countries after her husband’s death. Their stories were inspiring.
Once a reader called in to inform our paper that a bunch of police cars were surrounding the area and crowds of people were gathering. I was sent to investigate and discovered they had a found an old buried bomb that needed to be detonated. You just never knew!
My husband visited his old office known as the Blue Cube back in the day. Located on the Puyallup River, Scott fondly remembered fishing for salmon during his breaks and lunch hour.
Memories in Gig Harbor
Our first camping ground was at charming Gig Harbor. We enjoyed lunch at one of our favorite restaurants, Tides Tavern.
As a side note, while waiting to get a table at this popular dive, we sat on a bench admiring the view. A couple of older women sat down next to us. I asked them if they lived nearby or were visiting like us. One of them was actually from the same neighborhood where we used to live on South Hill, Manorwood. When we revealed that we were from Southern California, I could see them stiffen a bit.
How could I forget? As a general rule, Washingtonians aren’t crazy about us Californians. When we moved to Washington before, we were picking up some furniture from the store. The man helping us load our truck saw our California plates. He proceeded to tell us that he wished they would put a gate up at the border forbidding Californians from entering – or at least a sign telling us to go home. Not exactly a welcome wagon!
A couple of years later, I was interviewing a woman who didn’t realize I had moved from Southern California. She started going off on how Californians were moving here in droves and dared to think that made them Washingtonians. I remember asking myself: How long do we have to live here before we can call this our home? Of course, if you weren’t born here, the answer is never.
In 1997, we watched Dante’s Peak in the theater. When a couple is killed, apparently boiled while swimming in the hot springs, I remember thinking it was no accident that they were from California. Haha.
By the way, I fully realize that Washington is not the only state to have an ill opinion of us Californians. We seem to have a reputation for being stuck up, materialistic, and shallow. Oh well. Now that I’m older, I let people think what they want.
That being said, most people were accepting of us while we lived there, despite our Californian roots. Many befriended us and some were jealous that we had lived in the desert where the sun always shines.
But I couldn’t help thinking – maybe there’s still some of that same old attitude. When I revealed that we lived in Puyallup in the same neighborhood 20 years ago, the ladies warmed up immediately. Still, if we ever moved back, I’d change my plates immediately.
Tackling My Fears in Seattle
One of my favorite cities in the world is Seattle. On a sunny day, we loved eating seafood on the waterfront. Funny to think, when we moved there, I didn’t like clams. But hubby loved to do clam digging whenever opportunity arose and now they are one of my favorite foods.
Of course, Johnni and my granddaughter, Paige, wanted to go up the Space Needle and ride the Seattle Great Wheel. Despite my fear of heights, I joined in the fun. To my horror, the Space Needle had added a rotating glass floor, which I braved to take a photo. The giant Ferris wheel, The Seattle Great Wheel, was also new since I last visited. Since I don’t believe in letting fears hold you back, I rode it. Confession: I may have screamed a couple of times.
Another one of my beloved places to visit in this amazing state is Mount Rainier. Unfortunately, the smoke from local fires had made the sky hazy and obscured the views of the spectacular volcano. But once you got on the mountain, the views were stunning as ever.
Our Stay is Extended
Now, something goes wrong on just about every vacation, right? So, Chris and Johnni’s truck’s transmission blew up and we were told it would take about five days to get the parts to replace it. At first, thinking about our jobs and all our responsibilities waiting at home, we were horrified.
Okay, maybe us Californians do tend to be workaholics.
But after making some phone calls, we discovered that the world wouldn’t come to an end if we stayed an extra week.
Campgrounds are full these days and Gig Harbor was booked for the following week. Calls to several campgrounds weren’t successful either. Finally, we found two sites at Lake Sawyer, a place that Scott and I had never visited. Well, what a blessing all that turned out to be, as you can see from my first photo in the blog. This was one of the most beautiful places I had ever seen.
The truck incident also gave my family the opportunity to visit Snoqualmie Falls and the adorable nearby village full of vintage trains. We also enjoyed a fun day at an amusement park with my family – including my oldest granddaughter, Eden, who happened to be visiting there at the same time.
Time to Say Good-Bye
Dare I say, when the auto shop told us they had fixed Chris and Johnni’s truck a few days early we were actually sad. It meant we would be leaving this gorgeous state. Johnni and Paige were now in love with Washington as much as the rest of us.
On the way home, we cut over to 101 since there were so many fires along the 5. Just so happened, a landslide caused an hour and a half delay. Perhaps influenced by the more laid back spirit of the Northwest, we pulled out our chairs, put on some 70s classic music, broke out the Mimosa’s and avocado toast, and chilled.
A woman walked by and said, “Well done!”
I told hubby, “See, we were meant to stay in Washington.”
Can You Go Home Again?
So, I may have gotten off the subject a bit, but that takes me back to my original question. Can you go home again?
Hubby wants to retire soon and one thing we know for sure. When that happens, we will not be staying here in the desert.
Will we return to Washington? Although it’s not out of the question, I wonder how I would take the cold, wet winters now that I’m in my 60s. When we lived in Puyallup, I was in my 30s and didn’t mind the rainy, dark days. I reasoned you wouldn’t have all the beauty in Washington without the wet weather. It was well worth it in my opinion. Would I still feel that way?
Or will we move to the beach so we can enjoy sailing? Or will we go somewhere new and exciting?
Time will tell.
So, what do you think? Can you go home again? Have you retired and done so? How do you feel about it? I’d love to hear your opinions in the comment section below!