Returning to the Pits of Meaningless Despair

When told he is always welcome to return home to live, my charming son makes a face. “That would be like returning to the pits of meaningless despair.” I can’t say it makes my day but I can understand.

Does this look like the door to the Pits of Meaningless Despair?

If your childhood home came up for sale and you could afford to buy it, would you? I know two people who inherited a childhood home and decided not to sell. They’re actually living in the houses they grew up in and neither had what I would describe as a “happy” childhood. Divorces, premature deaths, alcoholism, insanity. The works… all enclosed in cramped houses with faulty plumbing, aging wallpaper and moldy basements. Perhaps they wanted to return to the familiar, no matter how filled with sour memories. Or perhaps they hoped to form happy memories to drive away the demons.

My father’s house, down on its luck.

Recently my nephew was in the market for a new house. One of the listings that he found and shared with his father, was the house we’d spent the majority of our childhood in. Even though my nephew had been there when he was a child, he hadn’t recognized it. Will he buy it? Who knows.

I know I’m in the minority. From the quotes I found on line, most folks think of home as a welcoming, warm place full of wonderful memories.

After you leave home, you may find yourself feeling homesick, even if you have a new home that has nicer wallpaper and a more efficient dishwasher than the home in which you grew up.”

Lemony Snicket

“You can’t go home again because home has ceased to exist except in the mothballs of memory.”

John Steinbeck

“You can’t go back home to your family, back home to your childhood, back home to romantic love, back home to a young man’s dreams of glory and of fame, back home to exile, to escape to Europe and some foreign land, back home to lyricism, to singing just for singing’s sake, back home to aestheticism, to one’s youthful idea of ‘the artist’ and the all-sufficiency of ‘art’ and ‘beauty’ and ‘love,’ back home to the ivory tower, back home to places in the country, to the cottage in Bermuda, away from all the strife and conflict of the world, back home to the father you have lost and have been looking for, back home to someone who can help you, save you, ease the burden for you, back home to the old forms and systems of things which once seemed everlasting but which are changing all the time–back home to the escapes of Time and Memory.”

Thomas Wolfe

33 thoughts on “Returning to the Pits of Meaningless Despair

  1. Your current home and childhood one both look like warm, welcoming places, Jan. Might be kind of cool if your nephew bought your childhood home? Or no?

  2. A house is just a house, it’s the love and happy memories that make it a home. I visited my childhood 30 years after I left it and it’s very true, you can’t go home again. Without my parents, it was just an expensive house, remodeled so extensively I hardly recognized it.

    1. In my neighborhood a lot of the older homes have been demolished and replaced with real monstrosities! We’ve done some mostly necessary remodels but we still have the “vintage” bathrooms! Still I am sure the previous residents would find it upsetting.

  3. Home? I’m no longer attached to any one place of residence. Maybe growing up, the home(s) one lives in become anchors on the ship of nostalgia. These days, I could live in a single room studio, cabin or jail cell and not care either way. The chains around my ankle stretch from bed to bath to desk to fridge, and that’s all I need. As long as there’s beer, electricity and internet, nothing else matters.

  4. I like your last photo, JT. The first home I lived in (after the small trailer when I was very young) is gone and the one I grew up in is so small that I wouldn’t go back. We’ll be moving into my parents’ house (they both passed away last year) but after an enormous renovation so it won’t be like moving into their house at all. Of course that’s different but I guess my answer is I wouldn’t go back. I understand your son’s comment but also that it doesn’t make your day. 🙂

  5. Yes indeed thoughts of home are better left as just that, thoughts!
    After our parents died, my eldest brother bought what was our childhood home. ( He actually bought it before my mother died) we often had family get togethers there … My eldest sister would not attend. … Well my brother moved and the house was sold … It’s just a house

  6. I can’t imagine wanting to live in my old family homes – one from 0-12 and the other from then till I left at 18. I was happy enough, there are many delightful memories but they created the back drop to the memories, the memories themselves are of people and pets and events.

  7. My sister and I went back to our beautiful, old home in Bogota, Colombia. We don’t have a lot of family memories – except for with our wonderful dogs – but nonetheless! I think I’ll leave it in the memory bank as the city has grown around it and there is a four story building, built right next to the property line, where once was a gracious old residence.

    1. That is sad. I was upset to see how my father’s house has been neglected – his houses were never grand but he did use natural materials and designed each house to take advantage of a view.

  8. Returning to a childhood home, even if it holds bad memories, I suppose is important to some people because they feel they are returning to their roots. And this I suppose will be dependant upon how strong the roots are they’ve put down elsewhere.

    1. I suspect most people move back into the family home for financial reasons. Especially the last few years when the housing market was insanely inflated. I’d have to be really in financial do-do but that’s just me!

      1. It’s a difficult move. I moved back with my parents for a year with my children when I became a single parent and we got on okay. Mind you, we all made an effort and it was only temporary. I couldn’t have done it full time.

      2. I think you do have to make some compromises for the sake of the children. The people I know who moved back into a childhood home did so after their parent’s death. The neighborhoods they grew up have changed so much that (gone downhill) so I’m perplexed as to why. It would make me quite sad.

  9. Every so often I’ll look up online one of the houses I grew up in as a child and then wonder what it looks like on the inside now. Would I buy it? Probably not, I’m not a small town girl anymore but there is a sentimental appeal to dreaming about it.

  10. I have not seen much nostalgia in terms of real estate in the Bay Area, simply because the values have skyrocketed so much. But I sure enjoyed your story about your son’s impression of moving home, and I, like you, don’t understand moving back to a place that harbors so many unpleasant memories. Loved this line, Jan and your incredible ability to cut right to the quick: “Divorces, premature deaths, alcoholism, insanity. The works… all enclosed in cramped houses with faulty plumbing, aging wallpaper and moldy basements.”

    1. Thanks Jet. We have neighbors who either sold or gave their house to their son and his family – primarily for the schools! As for my son, I think he likes this house – it’s mostly the town he doesn’t like. The kids call the town Borinda.

  11. About 20
    Years ago / we had friends who inherited a family home and they sold it right away – and the dad had built it! I thought it was cold and aloof – but now – two decades later with some more living – I completely understand why they sold it –
    And I wonder if your friends live in the house because it is comfortable but also affordable ?

    1. In one case the house had a wonderful location – good school district and right on the river. I could see how they had good memories of tubing, etc., that they wanted to pass on to their children. The other – yikes – a tiny house in a rough neighborhood!

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