July 21, 2016 – Sun, 85 degrees
Miles Today: 19
Miles to Date: 13,344
States to Date: 34
Thomas Wolfe wrote, You Can’t Go Home Again. He was wrong. You can return. Just be prepared for home to be so much smaller than memory insists. It took me half and hour, max, to roll through the precinct of my youth, the house, neighborhood, school, and church that stretched so wide to a young boy on his first bicycle. My family moved to Toms River when I was a year old. We lived on a street of cookie cutter houses within cycling distance of everything a child might want. By the time we moved to Oklahoma, when I was sixteen in 1971, the town had tripled in size. Today, houses on quarter acre lots crawl out in every direction. The streets I inhabited are now quaintly referred to as ‘The Village’. It is remarkably the same.
The subsequent owners of our house have followed in my father’s ‘tinkering’ tradition. It is the most distinct on our indistinct block.
Bishop Memorial Library, the first building I ever sketched, is still the most gracious structure downtown. I used to crouch in the stacks and savor Dr. Seuss, who was banned from my Catholic home.
I puffed my one and only cigarette in the ally behind the movie theater, which has been turned into a mini-mall.
I have only one friend still living in Toms River, though Gus is much more than a friend. I spent the afternoon and evening with Gus and his wife, Robin, his children and grandchildren. His daughter Maggie is my only godchild. Seeing her after too many years gone was a reunion of the spirit.
Just curious, Shorty…why did you return to Toms River? I’m truly interested in what drives us back to our hometowns. Was it on your route? Did you go off your route hoping to probe old memories? Curiosity?
Each time I’ve returned to one of my early childhood homes, I suppose I’m hoping to recapture some memories. Sure enough, memories captured, but I’m still left feeling unfulfilled.
I made it part of my route on purpose, for all the reasons you cite. A bit of curiosity, a bit of anxiety, a bit of wonder about the place that shaped me. I was not disappointed that the place felt small and a bit tired. It hasn’t worn any worse than I have!