In her hit song, “The House that Built Me,” Country & Western singer Miranda Lambert sings, “I know they say you can’t go home again; I just had to come back one last time; Ma’am, I know you don’t know me but these handprints on the front steps are mine.”
The song is about a woman visiting a place from childhood: a place she once called home. As the lyrics suggest, returning to see a childhood home can sometimes be highly emotional. Many people have made a visit to their childhood home later in life. Why? I would imagine that not all who visit their childhood homes are necessarily interested in seeing the people from their past. Rather, they visit the houses, playgrounds, riverbanks, schools, neighbourhoods, parks, and other places that once made up the landscape and shape the architecture of their childhood and adult lives.
The experience of visiting one’s childhood home can conjure up a depth of enjoyable, nostalgic but also mixed and confusing emotions. The choice of returning to the place that once was called home at a vulnerable, early, and innocent stage of life is a part of personal identity for many people. It is an extension of themselves as well as the location for many of their happy and or painful experiences and memories.
Why do people make these trips? The reasons are varied. The most common is to re-establish a psychological link between the child and the person they are today. I am sure some feel it was simply time to renew memories about who they were, where they came from and what they have become. Many I would guess want to return to the place where their values, habits, mores, dreams, and aspirations were established. Where discipline and important life lessons were learned, taught and or gathered’ a long time ago.
For me, visiting the Valley (now called Ghetto city) was about getting back in touch with some important parts of my past, obtaining insights about how and why my life unfolded the way it did and other perspectives. If nothing else, my recent visit in August with my family helped to fill some memory gaps. I am pleased to witness that in just over four (4) decades, the neighborhood has developed from about eight (8) small wooden houses and a foot track to about twenty-seven (27) concrete-based houses. The track is now a motorable road linking the east to west parts of La Plaine to Laronde and points south and the central village.
A simple fact for me was taking outmost delight in standing under my favorite tree where I spent a lot of time as a kid. That tall and very fruitful breadfruit tree overlooks the ravine and waves at the main street on the other side of the hill. Under that tree I ate my meals, read my library books, and worked on school assignments until the late afternoons transitioned to darkness. I also listened to music and the BBC World Service and Voice of America (VOA) news on my small battery powered transistor radio. That was the late 60s and early 70s when the southeast was no where near to Dominica’s electric grid.
The memories of the yard where the rain barrels collected water and saved me a couple of trips to the Cote D’or section of the La ronde river and the smoke bellowing out from the wooden kitchen all came back rushing. Somehow, I heard the hearty and loud laughter of my late grandmother as she received a juicy gossip from the neighbour. The picturesque bright morning eastern sunrise kissing the deep blue horizon of the southern Atlantic are indelibly etch in my mind. And the ‘tired’ sun retreating high behind the rolling hills of Morne Governear above La Plaine in the late evenings.
I cannot forget playing under the bright and pure light of the full moon nights and Mr. ‘Brang’ scaring us with folk tales of six (6) headed and no-headed jumbles. The endless times I spent with the neighbourhood boys Julian, Zeko, Michael, Mothy, Lotto and the others setting dove traps and roaming the nearby forests. Looking back nostalgically, I am just realizing how happy and carefree we were as children.
I understand that not everyone feels emotionally connected to his or her childhood home. But like most adults who have moved on to greener pastures, I am sure many have experienced a desire to see their childhood homes again. I am one of them and it is always a pleasure to return to the southeast. I can sing all day long the old and popular hit song by the Welshman Tom Jones; “It’s always good to touch the green, green grass of home.”