It seems that as we grow older, we finally come to the realization that there really is a limit to the number of days we have to exist upon this world. And it seems that with that realization comes remembrances of things past, people and places that we once loved and were a part of. Our thoughts turn ever increasingly toward home.
Home is more than a place to lay your head. Home exists in the here and the now: this place where we live our lives day by day but home also exists in the past. Those of us who are not native to our present “home” sometimes cannot understand the ambivalence of those around us who are “home”.
Home to me is that certain someplace where I was raised: the little community of Cherry Tree, a place that, if suburbs existed at that time, would have been considered a suburb of Logan, West Virginia. It’s a place where, during the summer, the sun does not peep over the eastern rim of “the mountain” until around nine o’clock. It is a place where you never really see a sunset, the sun goes down behind the western ramparts of “the mountain” at four or five o’clock in the afternoon.
But children never pay much attention to the rising or setting of the sun and during the summer vacation from school, time never meant a whole lot to us. We arose when we wanted, we ate when we wanted and we went to bed when we wanted. My parents expected certain attitudes and behavior from me in exchange for the latitude they granted me but it truly was a small price to pay for the total freedom that I experienced as a child.
Cherry Tree was an ideal environment for boys to grow in. Sometimes on the banks of Island Creek and sometimes under Island Creek, Cherry Tree nevertheless provided myriad havens of opportunities for adventurous small boys. There was always “the creek” and “the mountain”. Can you imagine a place without fences? Can you envision a place where there were no man-made obstacles, only those created by nature and we never considered those to be obstacles, only challenges. If we could not go over it, we would to around it and if you could not go around it or over it, chances were that you were not supposed to be there anyway.
On a visit back to Cherry Tree several years ago, I was staggered by the changes that had been wrought to the little community. The creek that figured so prominently in my childhood, a stream that I recall was wide enough to float boats and car tops in was no more but had become a mere brook that a person could very nearly just step over. I can remember actual creek banks that were sandy and a creek large enough to swim in and catch fish out of.
Needless to say, most of the little community was simply gone. In its stead were mining equipment shops and such. What few houses remained looked absolutely ancient. The alleys and byways we children traversed to the little two-room school house were no more. Fisher Bottom, across the creek from Cherry Tree, of course ceased to exist in the early sixties when the “boulevard” was pushed through and road construction was, by its very nature the major reason why the place I grew up, the place that I call “home”, exists only in my memories. No, you can’t really go home again. Things change, people change and we ourselves change; only in memory can we return once again to what we once were.