Doug Wolter: Sometimes you can go home again
Everyday life has a tendency to numb the senses. There are significant moments all around us if only we'd take the time to look, but we miss them because we are either too tired, too distracted, or too much in a hurry to care.
But once in a while we all get in touch with our sentimental sides.
A couple of Sunday mornings ago, I drove from Lakefield (where I'm living, at the moment, with my youngest daughter and her family) to rural Round Lake and the venerable Indian Lake Baptist Church my wife and I attended before moving away from Worthington nearly seven years ago. Upon the way I drove through Round Lake and happened to see, out of the corner of my left eye, a plain, old softball field.
I glanced at it. And then I glanced at it again. Then I turned the car toward it and stopped on a side street, looking at it carefully.
It's a simple softball field, and not an impressive one, at that. It's got a simple old backstop, with a simple set of old bleachers behind it. There is a bench on each baseline, about the sparest "dugout" seating possible for players. But the outfield grass was green, and its infield dirt seemed to beckon to me.
I suppose it was because, on that very same field about 40 years ago, I played second base there on my father's traveling Allendorf, Iowa, slow-pitch softball team.
That's when the memories flooded in.
It can be a humbling experience to remember the distant past when you least suspect it to come pouring into your memory banks. But as I looked over that old field that day, I thought to myself that it was exactly as I remembered it. I could see myself standing on that spot near second base, I could remember the comraderie me and my young peers -- along with a few old farmers who hadn't played ball in years until dad got "the old gang" together --felt as we squeezed ourselves onto that little bench.
It was like coming home.
In truth, I've had a lot of those memory gushers over the last few weeks. On April 29, I returned to work at the Daily Globe. My wife, Sandy, and I raised three kids here in Worthington for 22 years before embarking on our "seven-year itch" in Mankato in the summer of 2006. I'm happy to say I'm very glad to be back, and will be even happier when Sandy can join me, we hope, in a matter of weeks.
But enough about that. What I'm really trying to say is that, for some of us, the comforts of home aren't always appreciated until we leave them for something else. Maybe, in reality, the grass is not always greener on the other side. Maybe, sometimes, the "new thing" isn't really better than what you've had all along. And just when you think you can't go home again, you can.
I like to write short stories on the side, and I recently wrote one entitled, "Taking the Boy out of Allendorf," where I mused about my growing-up years and the time I returned, many years later, to see our old house become unlivable. The old place on the west edge of town was a mess --the house given over to the elements; the old sheds in a state of disrepair; the garage that I used to throw tennis balls against while I pretended to be a major league star, falling apart.
I wrote, then, that a person can always have his warm and fuzzy memories ... but no, you can't go home again.
Now, fast-forwarding to today, I have to say that although things are not the same in Allendorf, they appear remarkably sustainable here in Worthington. So many old friends are still here. And in many respects, the town feels just as I left it.
And that's a good thing for a 56-year-old grandpa who longs to get re-connected to his past.
Those of us who grow antsy at the "same 'ol, same 'ol" surroundings, who think that they've got to keep moving to keep from growing moss, maybe need to think twice. Just as those old softball fields hold a wonderful simplicity and symmetry that cannot easily be explained, so too, I think, do our other comfortable places that at one time held for us a special meaning.
Can't go home again? You just never know.