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You Can Go Home Again, Sort Of

I was happy to go to Texas A&M last week, not only because I was eager to help shape young minds, but because it would put me back in a place I hadn't visited in 32 years.

As the son of an Air Force officer, I spent most of my youth flitting from place to place. Texas -- specifically, Universal City, outside San Antonio -- was home from fourth through eighth grades. These are prime memory-formation years and I was curious how the burnished recollections of my youth would mesh with reality.

It is always risky dropping in unannounced on a stranger: "Um, excuse me. I used to live here. Can I come in and see my old bedroom?" I'd brought a little offering: Some photos taken when the house was being built. We were the first owners, pioneers in that section of a development called Coronado Village, where each street was named after a Conquistador. My parents got to pick out the brick and various other details. Here's a photo of my little brother and some friends posing in front of our unfinished house:


There are fewer places more magical to a kid than a construction site, and my first few years in Texas were spent playing among the unbuilt houses of Coronado Village. The development slowly marched across the landscape; trees replaced by 2-by-4s, 2-by-4s soon covered by brick and stucco.

The current owners of the house were waiting for the Sears man but were gracious enough to invite My Lovely Wife and me in. "You heard the house burned down, right?" said the wife. No, I hadn't. That was 10 years ago. Apparently the previous resident had died from his injuries. The rubble was cleared and a new house built on the old foundation. That's why it looked similar but not quite right.


We took a few photos, and then drove through the old neighborhood. I was surprised how much I remembered. There's the neighborhood pool; that's where Mark Gerth lived; that's where Scott Bachman lived. I was able to recall enough 1970s geography to find the movie theater where I saw such cinematic gems as "The Legend of Boggy Creek" and "The Giant Spider Invasion." It's now a pawn shop.

One of the consequences of being a military brat -- at least this military brat -- is that you tend not to stay in touch with the people you left behind. As I drove down DeGama Street and DeVaca Street I realized there was probably not a single person there who remembered me. Still, we build the present on the foundation of the past, and for half an hour at least, I was back home.

Have you ever been back to any of your childhood homes? What was the experience like for you? Share your observations in the comments section below.

By John Kelly  |  April 27, 2009; 9:20 AM ET
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I grew up in McLean VA in the 70's and 80's (LHS '83!). Still live there. I go for a walk in my old neighborhood every day, and at least once a week I stop and talk to someone I've known since 1971.

Posted by: wiredog | April 27, 2009 11:17 AM | Report abuse

Yes, a few years back, I went back to the neighborhood where I grew up. And oddly enough, Google Earth now has a photo of the house I grew up in with their street-level viewing. When we went back, the current owners were not there, but we stopped and spoke with two of our old neighbors and got to catch up with them. It was interesting to hear what happened to the kids I grew up with and let the neighbors know what happened to me and my siblings. Since I don't talk a lot about my childhood (some not a lot), my wife was entertained just listening to me talk to the neighbor. Great walk down memory lane. The house hasn't changed that much...mostly different paint and landscaping.

Posted by: DadWannaBe | April 27, 2009 5:08 PM | Report abuse

Returning after 50 years to see my highschool-era home, I was surprised that everything which had once loomed large now seemed so, school, the town itself, although the population remained the same.

Posted by: OldLady1 | April 28, 2009 6:47 AM | Report abuse

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