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Boomers: Can you come home?

Do you baby boomers dream of retiring somewhere exciting new or making plans to come home and settle down? Can you come home and it will be the same?

After visiting my old home in Washington state, I pondered these questions.

Thomas Wolfe wrote the novel “You Can’t Go Home Again.” The term became a popular saying, generally meaning that if you go back to a place in the past, it will not be the same as you remember. In fact, you may be downright disappointed.

Although opinions vary, Morton H. Shaevitz, Ph.D argued in an article written for Psychology Today that coming home doesn’t necessarily have to be a negative experience, “not if you approach life in a more optimistic way and understand that while some things may change, others remain the same and some may be even better.

While I don’t advocate living in the past, several studies have shown that nostalgic memories can help combat loneliness, provide psychological comfort, increase self-esteem, foster feelings of belonging, help us cope with adversity, and increase optimism about the future. If that’s the case, why not revisit a place or home that brings back fond memories?

But does that mean you have to come home when you retire?

My personal experience

For me, home has been many different places. My parents moved a lot. Although I was born in Southern California, we moved half a dozen times before I started high school.

Over the years, I have revisited some of those places. Sometimes it’s a nice trip down memory lane, but other times my old home or town has gone downhill.

For example, I briefly lived in Willits, located in Northern California, famous for the Skunk Train that travels through the beautiful woods to Fort Bragg. My parents bought a lot in the country and we lived in a mobile home when I was 10 years old. Our backyard was a kid’s paradise with a little stream, wild blackberry bushes and plenty of room to wander. One of my childhood friends lived nearby on acres of land with a pond, cows, and woods to explore.

When I revisited decades later, the vacant lot was now home to dilapidated apartment complexes. My friend’s parents had sold his land which was parceled out to build houses and was unrecognizable. After my visit, I wished I had kept my wonderful childhood memories of the place.

On the other hand, I just got back from visiting my old home in Washington state.
I fell in love with the place all over again during my visit this summer.

Missing our old digs

In the late 1990s, my husband, Scott, and I, along with our two sons, Jonathan and Christopher, moved to Puyallup. My daughter-in-law, Johnni, had never been to the state, so we planned a 10-day vacation there in our camping trailers.

When he saw our old neighborhood, he asked, “Why did you leave this place?”

Good question.

We only lived there for three years, but I missed it when we got back to the California desert. Washington always held a special place in my heart.

The last time we visited, 18 years ago on a book signing tour, every time we took a freeway south, I made fun of my husband. “Please don’t take me south! We can still turn around.”

While we were in Puyallup, we met my cousin, Rhonda, who still lives there, in Wildwood Park. Memories of the days walking our chow, Sydney, through these beautiful woods came rushing back.

The stairs leading to the playground had been washed away by the rain, and as we descended the steep path, a young mother came running up to help us.

“That’s another reason I miss Washington,” I told Johnni. “People here are more down to earth and more relaxed.” In fact, Johnni was surprised at how friendly and helpful all the parents turned out to be.

Remembering my days as a reporter

When we lived there, I was working as a newspaper reporter for The Puyallup Herald, formerly known as the Pierce County Herald.

One of the most exciting jobs I’ve ever had, and one of the most stressful due to tight deadlines.

But I loved going to work and not knowing where I would end up or who I would interview that day.

I wrote stories about a local doctor who visited Albania as a volunteer to help ethnic Albanian refugees expelled from Kosovo by Serbian forces, adults who were adopted and later reunited with their biological parents (the results were not always positive), a a three-part article series on the homeless, a story about a man’s memories of World War II, and an article about an 83-year-old widow who traveled to 183 countries after the death of her husband. Her stories were inspiring.

Once a reader called to inform our paper that a bunch of police cars were surrounding the area and a crowd of people was gathering. I was sent to investigate and discovered that they had found an old buried bomb that needed to be detonated. You never knew!

My husband visited his old office known as Blue Cube in the past. Located on the Puyallup River, Scott fondly remembered fishing for salmon during his breaks and lunch hour.

Our first camp was in lovely Gig Harbor. We enjoyed lunch at one of our favorite restaurants, Tides Tavern. You can’t beat the views from your terrace!

Facing my fears in Seattle

One of my favorite cities in the world is Seattle. On a sunny day, we loved eating seafood on the boardwalk. It’s funny to think that when we moved there, I didn’t like clams. But my husband loved digging for clams whenever the opportunity arose and now they are one of my favorite foods.

Of course, Johnni and my granddaughter, Paige, wanted to go up the Space Needle and ride the Great Wheel in Seattle. Despite my fear of heights, I joined in the fun. To my horror, the Space Needle had added a rotating glass floor, which I dared to take a photo of. The giant Ferris wheel, The Seattle Great Wheel, was also new since I last visited. Since I don’t believe in letting fears hold you back, I rode it. Confession: I may have yelled a few times.

Mount Rainier

Another one of my favorite places to visit in this amazing state is Mount Rainier. Unfortunately, smoke from local fires had clouded the sky and obscured views of the spectacular volcano. But once you got up the mountain, the views were more impressive than ever.

Our stay is prolonged

Now, something goes wrong on almost every vacation, right? Then Chris and Johnni’s truck’s transmission blew and they told us it would take about five days to get the parts to replace it. At first, thinking about our jobs and all our responsibilities waiting at home, we were horrified.

But after making a few phone calls, we discovered that the world wouldn’t end if we stayed another week.

The campgrounds are full these days and Gig Harbor was booked for the following week. Calls to various camps were also unsuccessful. Finally, we found two sites at Lake Sawyer, a place Scott and I had never been before. Well, what a blessing that all turned out to be. This was one of the most beautiful places I had ever seen.

The truck incident also gave my family a chance to visit Snoqualmie Falls and the nearby cute little town full of vintage trains. We also enjoyed a fun day at an amusement park with my family, including my oldest granddaughter, Eden, who was visiting there at the same time.

time to say goodbye

I dare say that when the shop told us that they had repaired Chris and Johnni’s truck a few days earlier, we were sad. It meant that we would leave this beautiful state. Johnni and Paige were now as in love with Washington as the rest of us.

On the way home we cut off to the 101 because there were a lot of fires along the 5. As it happened a landslide caused an hour and a half delay. Perhaps influenced by the more laid back spirit of the Northwest, we pulled out our chairs, put on some ’70s classical music, broke out Mimosa Avocado toast, and chilled.

A woman walked by and said, “Well done!”

I told my husband, “Look, we were meant to stay in Washington.”

Can you go home again?

So I may have gotten a bit off topic, but that brings me back to my original question. Can you go home again?

My husband wants to retire soon and one thing we know for sure. When that happens, we will not stay here in the desert.

Will we go back to Washington? Although it’s not out of the question, I wonder how I’d take the cold, wet winters now that I’m in my 60s. When we lived in Puyallup, I was 30 years old and didn’t mind dark, rainy days. I thought you wouldn’t have all the beauty of Washington without the humid weather. It was worth it in my opinion. Would I still feel this way?

Or will we move to the beach to enjoy sailing? Or will we go somewhere new and exciting?

Time will tell.


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