You can’t go home again

Thought you would enjoy these ruminations from my June blog. Hope you do!

Growing up, my high school had a program called School Within a School that people who were sophomores through seniors could apply to join. The program took up to a hundred kids across the three grades. If you were in SWS, as they called it, you took some of your classes there, and some of your classes in the bigger school. For a kid like me who came out of being bullied in my grade school and was intimidated by the large size of the high school, SWS was a godsend.

Recently, the program had its 50th anniversary of its inception (started in 1971) and I decided to go back for that reunion. I haven’t been back to Boston since a prior HS reunion (the last one was in 2020, and that didn’t happen, for obvious reasons), so I decided to go to this. I have many fond memories of SWS and my friends there and wanted to see the city I grew up in from the point of view of an adult.

The reunion itself was wonderful. I ran into friends I hadn’t seen in decades, and some I had lost touch with after we fled my grade school in 8th grade to stop the bullying. I got to see teachers from that era, who remembered me, and the old classrooms that were unmarked by time. It was a joyous and wonderful occasion, and I am so happy I did it.

Getting into Boston was its own adventure, which I will save for next month. Once I got there, I settled into the B&B In Brookline near to my old home and neighborhood and got ready for five days in the city I grew up in. In the days that followed, besides the reunion, I went to Cleveland Circle, which was the site of many an adventure, including playing Space Invaders, sneaking into the dive bar, and eating pizza at the local hangout joint. The pizza place is still there, but the theater is now condos and the dive bar a respectable eatery. Then I went into Boston with an eye toward the public library (which looks much the same) and the Prudential. I wanted to go to the Skywalk at the top of the Prudential and remind myself what it looks like, but that was closed.

I went to Coolidge Corner, another site of many (mis) adventures and Harvard Square. I went through Kenmore Square and in and out of various T (subway) lines as I re-familiarized myself with the city. One thing that took me by surprise was how small it was. When I first moved to Los Angeles, I was shocked at its sheer size, but I guess I’ve gotten used to it, because I was surprised at how close everything was in my home city. If I’d been in better shape, I could have walked to many of the places I took the subway to. #lifegoals. One of my great pleasures was the subway. Growing up, we could bop down to the end of the street and pick up the aboveground Green Line “C” trains and be in the city within ten trolley stops. I miss that about Los Angeles. We have our Metro, which goes to more places with every extension, but not like in the more compact East Coast city I once called home. Buying a “Charlie ticket” and taking the “T” everywhere was a pleasure. (If you’re unsure why they are called Charlie Tickets – here is a YouTube video of the Kingston Trio song that was the inspiration.)

Something else I did was go see my old house in Brookline. We lived in this grand old 1893 Victorian on a one-way street that went pretty much nowhere. The house was huge (like 6,000) square feet, with three stories and a full basement, built into this hillside like the rest of the area that was named Aspinwall Hill. I was not prepared for what awaited me. Brookline takes its preservation seriously, so as I was nearing this odd site with some heavy machinery, I couldn’t make sense of what I was seeing. But…the house was gone. It had been demolished not too long before and was now being turned into townhouses. Housing in Brookline is amazingly expensive, and I am confident that the person who somehow managed to get permission to tear down such a home will make bank. The sick feeling in the pit of my stomach still hasn’t left. All those memories, that beautiful home – gone. I expect it from Los Angeles, but never Boston. It was then that I understood that you really can’t go home again. I made a choice a long time ago to make my home in L.A. and seeing that was like releasing all those childhood memories. They are gone, and live only in my stories (oh yes, that house will be in a new trilogy – promise).

Despite the heartache of seeing my childhood destroyed, and the reminder that the city I grew up in is not where I make my home, I’m very glad I did the trip. All of that, from University Road to Coolidge Corner to SWS to singing Charlie on the MTA every time I pulled out my Charlie Ticket was a reminder that I was shaped by the events of my childhood, and the city my town was adjacent to.

To top it all off, I got sick, and it’s taken me a full week to start to feel human. It wasn’t Covid, amazingly, which I was grateful for, but I was plenty sick enough. That didn’t spoil a bittersweet time, though. What about you? Have you ever gone back to someplace important to you, only to find it altered, either good or bad? I want to hear about it!

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