Thomas Wolfe had a thing about home. So did E.T., but his wish was much simpler: call the folks and get a ride back.
Thomas Wolfe was a little more complicated. He was born October 3, 1900 and died September 15, 1938. His father ran a gravestone business in Asheville, NC. He died of miliary tuberculosis of the brain at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore just shy of his 38th birthday. Wlliam Faulkner called Wolfe the best talent of their generation. High praise.
Look Homeward, Angel was Wolfe’s first novel. Published in 1929, it is a fictionalized account of his early life in Asheville. It caused an uproar in Asheville at the time, and Wolfe stayed away from the town for 8 years. Maybe that has something to do with his notions of home as well.
You Can’t Go Home Again was published posthumously in 1940.
I remember there being a made-for-television movie of the book in 1979, starring Chris Sarandon as the young writer in the story. I don’t remember if it was any good.
I am more of a Steinbeck fan myself. He also said you can’t go home again.
I recently went home again.
I thought I was going home again when I took a job at the University of California, Davis last last year. The town of Davis itself felt like home and I was quite comfortable th. Campus also felt like home. Some things had changed, as I expected they would, but the general feeling of being there was much the same. For reasons I won’t go into, it didn’t work out, but it had nothing to do with the place.
In my own literary efforts, I hope to one day finish a memoir about moving away from home (see The Do It Yourself Museum ©, maybe someday brought to you by the Hallmark Channel ™). Home in this story is to me the house we lived in in Atlanta until the summer of 1972. I still dream about that house frequently, and remember the details of it better than most of the other countless apartments and houses I’ve lived in over the years since.
I was in Atlanta for a short visit to celebrate October birthdays (we are the 3 Libra sisters). We had a wonderful time, with mani/pedis, bargain shopping, great food, a day at the Atlanta History Center (an upcoming blogpost) and a visit to the old neighborhood in Druid Hills.
For the most part, the changes were no more than I expected. I don’t have any illusions that things remain the same. My Atlanta childhood memories are uniquely my own. My mother’s memories of the same places were different as were her mother’s. I thoroughly enjoyed every minute and happily disagree with Messieurs Wolfe and Steinbeck. You CAN go home again!
First we explored Emory Village, which we used to walk to to go to Horton’s. Horton’s is hard to describe; basically think old-fashioned five-and-dime with a soda fountain. A little change in your pocket as a kid went a long way at Horton’s!
And you can’t go to Emory Village without wandering into the gorgeous entrance to Emory University. When I was a high school senior in Sacramento, California, I desperately wanted to go to either Emory or to Mount Holyoke (that’s also a different blogpost; I went to neither).
Next stop: Fernbank Elementary School and the Fernbank Science Center.
The old building is gone, a new, large, spiffy one in its place. And that’s okay. The kids of the neighborhhood deserve a nice, new school with updated facilities. Yes, the Cat Stevens song (Remember the Days of the) Old Schoolyard plays in my head (see Is there a cure for earworms?Or, Help! I Need Somebody…) but it’s just a song and new kids in the neighborhood are making their own special memories.
Frankly, not all of my schoolyard memories are that great (I remember when the torment of my school years, the President’s Physical Fitness Test, was instituted at Fernbank. Nightmares!)
At some point in my childhood, the Fernbank Science Center was built across the street from the school, and basically over the fence from our backyard. On hot summer nights we would walk over to the planetarium, which was blissfully air conditioned.
My favorite memory of school is GOING HOME at the end of the day! We lived so close, and walked rain or shine. When we moved to California and I had to ride the school bus, I was in total culture shock. This was my walk home:
I loved this house, it looks pretty much the same, and I hope I keep dreaming about living there!
Just remember, there’s no place like home.
And every woman should have a pair of red shoes. It was my mother who said that one.
11 thoughts on “Look Homeward, Angel, or Things Thomas Wolfe Said”
I LOVED ur post about Emory! I grew up on Ridgecrest rd. My very Bestest friend was Susan Pierce and Kate Mitchell just a block from where u lived. Did you or your family know them? My maiden name is Peeler. I haven’t been back to Atlanta in a long long time- but all your photos and commentary made my heart swell with Gratitude and Love of where I grew up. Thanks for staring my morning off with a sweet nostalgic smile. Randy Tanner gets the credit for forwarding ur blog to our 1974 DHHS class. I appreciate your writing style and “voice”- keep up your good work.
Thanks! I’m not sure about the names but I’ll check with my 3 older siblings. My sisters graduated from DHHS in the early 1970s. My brother was there for a year or so before we moved.
Speaking of names, it’s the Cottraux clan. Cathy, who married Ralph Marshall. Ellen, now Ellen Head. Steve. And then me. Thanks again for the nice comments! I still dream about the house on Dyson Drive.
I have a memory of being at your house. Ellen was in my grade. Kathy was eating tuna fish with mustard to cut calories and left out all mayonnaise. Great neighborhood to live in and go to school there. We literally watched them build that science center while Mrs Laird was trying to teach math.
I have a daydream of buying that house to live out my retirement years. It’s probably a lot smaller than what I remember, I loved that neighborhood.