Next stops: Troy, St. Louis, Calgary, Knoxville

I went back home to Knoxville last week. I was there helping care for my mother after she had minor surgery.

Usually during my trips home, I hardly have enough time for all of the family gatherings and visits with old friends. This visit I had plenty of alone time in the waiting room and back at my mother’s apartment while she rested.

I read and spent some time job hunting online. I also found myself daydreaming. I daydreamed about the old Knoxville. I recalled the houses in the country and city where we had lived; the doughnut shop near my high school; and my first efficiency apartment.

I thought a lot about how things looked and felt now in the town where I had spent my first 18 years. It was all so different.

I can recall thousands of good memories of Knoxville, however, I wonder if I could ever live there again. I’ve moved back to my hometown before. I returned to live there for a while after my first marriage didn’t work out. But now I wonder, has Knoxville changed too much? Or have I changed too much?

Karen Chase lives in Richmond’s Church Hill. She’s from Calgary. She also has fond memories of her hometown that she describes as “big sky country” with sweeping plains and views of the mountains.

She recalls what she likes about home as well as what’s different there: “Eighteen hour days in summer with 75 degree weather! That space, the air, my friends who are still there, help me find my roots again. I’m always amazed at how clean it is, but now it’s not as environmentally conscientious as I remember. My friends have not had to adapt to living in new places as I have, and so they remain the same. Through the short summer, winter seems to linger like a panic in the people over its inevitable return. The city that was once 600,000 is now over a million, and so it no longer fits me like a pair of favorite old jeans I’ve outgrown, but I can’t bear to give up.”

Like many of us, Karen returns home for visits, but she doesn’t think she’ll ever return there to live.
“I go back to see the beauty of western Canada, and to visit home again. But it doesn’t captivate me. It can’t entice me into returning. Partially because it would simply feel like going back and I like moving forward. And did I mention the cold? Yipes!”

Susan Crawford Williams of Richmond says her feelings about going back home to Troy, Michigan have changed through the years.

“Do they say, ‘You can always go home’ or ‘You can never go home again’? It’s both. You can go, but it will never be the same. After I left but my mother and other family (members) were still there, it felt nice to ‘go home.’ When my immediate family moved and it was just my extended family, I noticed the city seemed a little dirtier, a little colder and the memories I had from childhood didn’t seem as accurate as the reality I saw before me. What makes home ‘home’ has a lot more to do with our perceptions than we realize. Ultimately it’s still a nice place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there.”

Sue Tilbe grew up in small town east of downtown St. Louis. Sue, who lives in Henrico County, says her hometown may be too small, too different for her to live there now.

“I have family back there and would not be opposed to moving to the St. Louis area especially to care for my elderly parents. However, I would not move back to that small town; I would want to be in a larger metropolitan area. My old hometown has too much of a small feel and doesn’t have the comfort zone it once did. Most of my friends have moved on and I only have a few that I touch base with back there. St. Louis is an exciting place and has a lot to offer, but the small town only has my parents as my attachment. So, I like to visit, but would not want to live there anymore.”

It’s been nearly 20 years since I have lived in Knoxville. My husband and I left for careers and for adventure. And even though my family still lives there, it seems very unlikely that I’ll live there again.

It’s not that I don’t like Knoxville. The University of Tennessee helps attract a mix of culture and diversity. Spring with all the dogwoods blooming is magnificent. I love the Market Street mall downtown. And the beautiful Smokey Mountains are close by.

It’s just that Knoxville doesn’t feel like home anymore. It’s like Karen said, moving back home would feel too much like going backwards instead of moving forward.

What do you think? Would you want to go back and live in your hometown again? Why or why not?


3 thoughts on “Next stops: Troy, St. Louis, Calgary, Knoxville

  1. MaggieB

    I hail from the shores of Lake Erie, where snow is still on the ground, and the saying “dreary Erie, the mistake on the lake!” tells of dreary sunless days better left behind. It’s not that we hadn’t looked to move before our move here, to Chesterfield County, in 2002, but career opportunities came closer to home so we ended up staying put and raising our children there.

    Living here now I realize how much we missed… There is always something going on, the arts, the museums, music, history… I could go on and on. While we have lots of family and friends left behind in Erie, PA I know we will never return… Our life is here now, and it’s all good.

  2. This Common Reader

    Thomas Wolfe – a native of Asheville, NC – wrote You Can’t Go Home Again in 1940. It was published after his first book Look Homeward Angel which was about trying to go back to the way things were. I agree with your friend Karen from Calgary that going home feels too much like going backwards. Great post!

  3. Jennifer

    I’m originally from The Bronx, N.Y. Lived there ’til I was 15, and then my family moved to Suffolk, Va. My heart is here in Virginia. New York is cool, but I’ve outgrown the lifestyle. I like the slower pace and beach here in Hampton Roads. New York is New York but it’s not for me anymore.

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