I slow down involuntarily like I’ve done so many times before. But this is no longer my destination. My journey is not over. This is no longer home. I am not headed here, I just have to pass by on my way to somewhere else. But today as I drive down this once familiar street, much changed and yet much the same, it hits me. Though memory lane is usually a euphemistic term, for me, this street is more than a metaphorical memory lane. This street is literally a lane full of memories for me.
First I pass my old Jr. High School, which is now an empty lot as the building has been bulldozed long ago. Still standing, though in the process of falling down, is the old gym which sat next to the now missing school building. Still standing strong are a couple of trees which graced the building’s entrance and provided diversion for me as I sat in my second floor English class looking out the window. In the next block, I pass my grandparent’s house, now occupied by strangers. So many of our family gatherings took place here. I remember all the Thanksgivilngs and the Fourth of July backyard picnics complete with badminton. I had a certain tree in the backyard I liked to climb which gave me a special place all my own.
As I continue down the street, in the next block I pass my elementary school. It is bigger now, some new additions have been added onto the original building. Still, some of the field remains where the track was and a practice field for football. Now it is inevitable. If I continue down this road, this memory lane, in the next block I will come to a curve in the road and I will be home. Well, in another not so long ago time, I would have been home. But not now. The old brick barn is still standing right where it has stood for longer than I know and so is the house behind it. But they are no longer home because mom is no longer there.
The next house I pass, which sits next to this one, separated only by a side street, houses as many of my memories as the house by the barn. You see, I grew up in this small house with the big yard – a yard full of clover and croquette and black walnuts and lots of fallen leaves in the fall. The house with the barn was where my other grandmother lived during my childhood years. We eventually moved there and that house became home. Home is where your family lives.
My trip down memory lane is not over yet. As I continue down the street a couple more blocks, I arrive at my church. Well, it was my church my entire childhood and until I grew up and moved away, it was the only church I had ever known. Full of memories both mundane and profound, from Sunday evening youth choir practice to communion on a Sunday morning, this was the place of greatest impact on my life. So much more than Sunday morning memories, the life lessons I learned from God’s word are teaching me still. I remember my Sunday School teachers and feel fresh gratitude for each and every one of them as I drive by this landmark on my memory lane.
Down the road from my church is my high school. This is the last landmark on my trip down memory lane. Is it coincidence that the two places I spent the most time outside of home, school and church, are literally next to each other on the same street? I seldom drive down memory lane anymore, both literally and figuratively. Actually, the former leads to the latter. When I do have occasion to return to my hometown, my literal drive down my old street propels me on that accompanying journey of the mind, revisiting memories stored away, forgotten until called forth by a journey such as today’s.
At this point I recall Thomas Wolfe’s poignant words, “you can’t go home again.” Maybe that’s why even though I slow down as I drive past, I don’t stop. It is not my home anymore. Mom’s not there. I can’t go in. I can’t go back. I guess that’s why they call it a “trip down memory lane” – because it is a trip but not a destination. I have to keep on moving. No stopping on Memory Lane. Reality road is where I live now. In the present. In the here and now of today.
Funny to think that someday my present Reality Road will turn into my Memory Lane. For now, I hang onto the steering wheel, glancing at these landmarks as I pass by, not daring to linger long though the memories are good ones – but the loss of those I have loved too much to let fully in to the moment. Trips down memory lane are best when brief. So I drive on, reminded of what was by the landmarks that still stand, bearing witness to what was, giving my memories the substance of the reality from which they arose.
Still, it never feels right to round the curve and keep on going. That used to be the end point, my destination. That used to be home. I confess – It never feels right to drive on by. As I do, I feel directionless. What is my destination now? These words from John 14:1-3 answer that question in this way when Jesus said,
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, trust also in Me. In My Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with Me that you also may be where I am.”
This assurance of a destination, a home, contains all the comfort, the hope, the peace of mind and the promise of joy that I need. I have a secure, eternal destination being prepared for me. No matter how many hard places my Reality Road takes me, I will arrive at my desired destination Jesus is preparing for me. I will arrive at home. I won’t have to drive on by.
“Now the dwelling of God is with men, and He will live with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Revelation 21:3-4)
sincerely, Grace Day