You Really Can’t Go Home Again

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Black Dragon Canyon Viewing Area in the Wasatch Range

I didn’t post a blog yesterday . . . and I almost didn’t post this morning. The truth is I wasn’t sure what to write. It isn’t that nothing happened on the road—far from it.

Bighorn sheep, more bald eagles, a coyote, two burros, and mile upon mile of gorgeous mountain driving, first in the Rocky Mountains in Colorado and then in the Wasatch Range in Utah. That was just yesterday.

The day before, as we drove from Nebraska into Colorado, through Wyoming, I was overcome with deep emotion when we pulled off I-25 to drive into Fort Collins, Colorado—a place we called home for almost sixteen years.

We were there to see two of my best friends in the world, but to get to their houses—first one then the other—we had to drive through territory that looked so familiar yet as foreign as the Wasatch Range. My daughter drove while I, well, fell apart. In fact, I quite literally could not stop crying. Even writing this—some six hundred miles west, in a motel room in Beaver, Utah—I still have trouble stemming the tears. My poor daughter was puzzled then frustrated. She, trying to maneuver strange new rush-hour terrain, was helped not at all by her teary mother. There were a few sharp words on both our parts—the first of the trip—which made me even more sad.

After my daughter and I talked things out, my daughter—mature and wise beyond her years—said, “Isn’t this why you wanted to take this trip? To reconnect with your old self?” It gave me pause. And of course the visits were beyond what I’d hoped—we spent much-too-little time with each friend; and my daughter and her best friend (from pre-K and kindergarten!) reconnected, too. It was a wonderful day of talking and catching up in person.

As for the emotion, I’m still figuring that out . . . maybe that it was a place my husband and I graduated from college, started our newlywed life, welcomed two children, owned our first house . . . or was it that I was homesick for my now-home, over two thousand miles away? I’m still not sure, but I realized in those moments of teariness and in conversation with my daughter, my friends, and their families that in so many ways you truly can’t go home again.

Today, more home—to my hometown in California—then tomorrow to San Francisco and the big drop off.




  1. Julie Luek says:

    Every time I go to Pittsburgh to visit my mom I get, maybe not teary, but definitely emotional to touch base with the sights, sounds and smells that were part of my childhood– sometimes good, sometimes not so good associations. We will be visiting the college where my husband and I met and graduated from, on our road trip east, so my daughter can do a campus visit. I imagine going back (we haven’t been there in decades) and having my now grown daughter consider it as a college will be emotional for me. There is something poignant about “going back” and touching on feelings, on the passage of time, that is very emotional, although I’m not sure I could put my finger on it precisely either. It’s rather like a collision of seasons.

    • Julia Munroe Martin says:

      “A collision of the seasons…” that’s exactly what it felt like, Julie. Glad to hear you understand and can’t wait to hear about your trip, too!

  2. I was just telling my husband yesterday that each time I’ve left a “home” I have felt an extreme sense of loss; he, on the other hand, has always loved moving and exploring and equates living in one place with stagnation. We are all different, Julia. Your daughter sounds like my husband; you, well, you sound more like me! It’s so nice, isn’t it, to have our loved ones around to help balance our scales. Safe travels to you!

    • Julia Munroe Martin says:

      I always have a sense of “leaving something behind” when I leave a home. It actually did help to have my daughter balance the scales (and I was there to balance hers when she felt emotional, too). I’m on my own now (will blog about it tomorrow) and I miss my daughter, but I’m glad she’s on her wonderful new path!

  3. Erika Marks says:

    Oh my dear…what an incredibly honest post. And your observations–of both yourself and your previous home base–are so powerful. Reunions–whether they be with places or people–are never what we imagine them to be, are they? I know as you move closer to your destination, the emotions grow and surely intensify. I hope that knowing we are all sharing in this journey with you through your journaling here helps some.

    Hugs to you and your precious driving partner:)

    • Julia Munroe Martin says:

      “Reunions–whether they be with places or people–are never what we imagine them to be, are they?” << wow, did this nail it for me. Exactly, Erika! Yes, the journaling and sharing has helped a lot. Thanks for the hugs, I appreciate them, and I know my daughter does, too 🙂

  4. Shary says:

    With as much change as you are experiencing right now, it would be a wonder if your emotions didn’t overwhelm you from time to time. I’m so glad you were able to spend time with old friends and have some special moments with your daughter. Although it’s true that we can’t go back, we can bring our relationships forward to our new lives just as you’re doing on this journey. Happy trails!

    • Julia Munroe Martin says:

      My emotions are definitely all over the place, but I’m still having a fabulous time. My old friends were fabulous and helped me sort my feelings out, and my daughter and I had a great rest of the trip, too!

  5. Barb Riley says:

    Aw, hugs to you, my friend. I’ll bet tucked into your mix of tears somewhere is the big drop off, too… you’re getting closer. Sometimes I think making a journey like you are—visiting old friends and homes along the way, literally driving across the country—takes us into emotional depths we’re not even prepared to understand. But you are so right about truly not being able to go home again. To this day, when I drive through my old neighborhood (where I lived for 25 years) I cannot escape the melancholy. Hang in there and let the tears flow. They are healing, you know.

    • Julia Munroe Martin says:

      Thanks for the hugs, Barb! Yes, the big drop off was part of the mix, no question. Today was less teary, but the good-bye created a few new ones. Now, on my own, I’m on my way to getting my mojo back 🙂

  6. An emotional trip for you, no doubt. Although I suspect your daughter is a larger part of the upheaval than the old hometown. It’s all linked together actually. Life changes, just like you said. You can’t go backwards.

    I cried my way through New Mexico, or one of the big-sky states out west, when I drove with my son Matthew to L.A. several years ago. I think something he said about wanting to do it alone next time, or not needing me to drive with him, set me off. He didn’t mean it in a mean way, just a matter-of-fact apron-strings-breaking kind of off-hand comment. Once I started crying I couldn’t stop. I felt bad because I knew I was making him feel bad. And he was only going for a 3-month co-op job while in college, not for an indefinite initiation of a career.

    When they placed my first-born son in my arms after his birth, I thought, No one ever prepared me for this.

    No one ever prepared me for how it would be when they grew up either.

    We go on.

    Thinking of you across the land. Call me if you want to talk.

    • Julia Munroe Martin says:

      It really is all linked together, I agree, Christine! Your New Mexico experience sounds remarkably like my own. Thank you for the offer to talk… I may well call you!

  7. Melissa Crytzer Fry says:

    I’m so glad the reunions were heartwarming. As for the emotion: it’s evident how much you loved Colorado and how much those relationships meant to you. I’m glad you had the chance to go back.

    • Julia Munroe Martin says:

      Yes, the reunions with my friends were wonderful, absolutely fabulous but much too short. I feel so lucky to have such great friends. Glad you understand, Melissa!

  8. Lisa Ahn says:

    I’m just catching up on blog posts, and these road trip posts are a delight! I love your descriptions of Hershey, the bald eagle, and all your unplanned adventures. Sorry to hear that this day was so emotional, but you’ve got a lot going on — graduation, a lengthy trip with long hours, nostalgia for old homes, and then the anticipation of dropping of your daughter. I say, give yourself some leeway. It will be okay. Big hugs to you, and thanks for generously sharing this adventure with those of us at home.

    • Julia Munroe Martin says:

      I’m so glad you’re enjoying the road trip, Lisa! Yes, a LOT going on, no question. Thank you for the hugs, I appreciate it! I needed them!

  9. Bless you! Last year I took a trip back to my old home town, visiting my old house, park, schools etc. I had the tears too, and yes, in a way they are unexplainable because so much is mixed up in those emotions – it’s like being on a rollercoaster from the present to the past and back again. I think it does put us in touch with who we are by putting us in touch with who we were. It must have been amazing to meet up with your friends again. Hope you have a fantabulous rest of the trip xo

    • Julia Munroe Martin says:

      Thanks Abi–for understanding and for your support! I dropped off my daughter yesterday and now I’m on my way across this wide country (again!)!