You CAN go home again. And the chores haven’t changed.


“You can’t go home again,” the American novelist Thomas Wolfe famously declared, using that pronouncement as the title of perhaps his best-known book. I confess I haven’t read it, so I don’t know how Wolfe reaches his conclusion, but I would humbly submit that the adventure that Raymond and I have had here at the Manse proves that you CAN go home again. “Back to where you once belonged,” as another writer (the British tunesmith Paul McCartney) put it.

Late this afternoon I found myself thinking about how, when you buy the house you grew up in (in Queensborough, Ont.), you can find yourself doing precisely the same chores that you were doing at that house several decades before. Which is a slightly odd, though not unpleasant, feeling.

Due to a widescale power outage that hit Belleville, Ont., this afternoon, the school day ended early at Loyalist College, where I teach. As a result I got back home to the Manse earlier than usual, 4:30 or so. Since there was still well over an hour of daylight left, and it was pleasantly sunny (though cold), I thought I’d better seize the unexpected opportunity to get some more autumn debris raked up off the Manse’s rather expansive lawn before the frost sets in for good and the snow falls. And so like a good scout I raked up and bagged seven or eight big bags’ worth of fallen leaves and evergreen needles. (What you see in the photo is the last big pile before it was bagged; note rake leaning against clothesline pole in the background.)

Anyway, toward the end of the exercise it suddenly struck me that, had it been a sunny after-school afternoon in late October 1973 instead of a sunny after-school afternoon 40 years later, in late October 2013, I would in all likelihood have been doing precisely the same thing in precisely the same place: raking up fallen leaves in the Manse yard. The only difference being that back then it would have been a chore assigned by my mum or dad (and probably protested bitterly by adolescent me), and this time I assigned myself, because – well, because it had to be done.

I have to say that, cold and tired though I was by the end of the operation, the delight in the then-and-now symmetry of it all made up for everything.

So there, Mr. Wolfe.

8 thoughts on “You CAN go home again. And the chores haven’t changed.

  1. If I recall raking up those pile of leaves back then was only to jump right in the middle and disappear. Making fall leaf forts were so much fun. πŸ™‚

    • Oh, that is so true, mk! I remember that my dad used to get annoyed when we would jump into the pile of leaves we had just raked up. But he was also young enough to remember how much fun that was – so the annoyance didn’t last long!

      • My lovely maple in the front yard is almost ready for raking. And if I pile them all up and jump right in the middle I am not sure what the next car coming around the corner might think of me.. Wondering where is the wine glass.. lol But I have to say that it is a chore you really don’t regret. It’s light work and you smell each and every leaf. And know Christmas isn’t that far away. πŸ˜‰

      • So true! Christmas – when there will be candlelight in every window again this year at my place and, I expect, yours! A homey and welcoming sight in little Queensborough.

  2. Well, practical me has a suggestion: use the leaves as insulation for water lines or any other underground utilities that could use them. Or over flowered beds or whatever . . . That’s after you’ve finished jumping around in them, of course.

    My late, great Tigger-tiger cat — he weighed 30 pounds at one point — used to love frolicking in the piled of leaves I had raked up. He blended in with them . . .

  3. Two things. 1. Bon Jovi ‘Who Says you can’t go Home’. Not totally terrible. 2. I don’t recall you ever actually doing a chore or holding a rake in 1974.

    • Oh now now now! I certainly did rake up my share of leaves. And remember we’re talking 1973 here, not 1974. I was more into chores in my younger days (13 stedda 14) – and of course now, when there’s nobody to slag them off on.

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