You can go home again
Thomas Wolfe once wrote that “you can’t go home again”. Chinese proverbs remind you that “you never put your foot in the same stream” twice, reflecting the constant movement of change within a river.
Recently I “went home” returning to Stamford Connecticut and the local library that first gave me a sense of intellectual curiosity and wonder (and provided a place for my mother to desposit me and my brother on cold wintry mornings). There I learned about books and the world, an early education complemented by the shortwave radio my father bought me whereby I turned in the world and learned about life outside of Stamford.
Returning to speak at the Ferguson Library (co-sponsored by the Library and the Interfaith Council of Southwestern Fairfield County) brought back memories and created new ones. Walking from the train station to the library with my friend Michele, I pointed out the new buildings, roads, office parks and shopping malls that were not part of my youth. I also noted the iconic buildings (some still functional, others boarded up) that framed my “downtown”; the old Post office (boarded up and for sale), Town Hall (relocated), the newspaper offices (relocated) and St. Johns Church (still functioning).
The library itself still evokes memories but the children’s section where I hung out is quadrupled in size, filled with books, fun activities and technology undreamed of in my youth. The library itself has grown and the early evening crowd reflected the changing mosaic of America – even suburban Stamford – black, brown, Asian, a host of ethnicities, languages, cultures – all learning at the library and avoiding the frigid Connecticut winter.
I will write more about my experience speaking at the library. But returning to my hometown reminded me of my Vietnamese friends telling of going to their hometown, for TET, or a memorial service of a departed relative or other occasion. I have not often returned to my roots, but I know I can and am glad I did