Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

August 15, 2013

Gary's World: Magical history tour an epic failure

By Gary Nelson
Senior staff writer

CROSSVILLE — On a recent, brief trip back to my hometown in Northwest Indiana, I was amazed at how much had changed.

My son and wife accompanied me and I told them I was going to give him the family heritage tour of Northwest Indiana.

Such a tour consisted of taking him past many of the memorable places and landmarks of the town and the Calumet Region. The tour was of the places that had the biggest impact on my life and contributed to the development of my being.

It was what I called a “Magical History Tour” or “Your personal heritage tour.”

Although the names of the tour sounded grand, meaningful and historical, I must admit, the tour was pretty much an epic failure.

Most of the places we drove past seemed so small now, they were buried behind trees that have now become so large they cover the streets. The traffic was a nightmare to navigate through.

The first stop was my childhood home.

As we drove down the street, I was amazed at how large the maple trees had become. The trees that were once so small I could fit both my hands around their trunks have become so tall and cumbersome the branches on each side of the street touch each other in the middle, overhead, almost forming a tunnel.

The neighborhood in which I covered frequently on my Schwinn Stingray seemed so much smaller to me. In fact, it had changed so much I nearly drove past my old childhood home.

I took him past my old elementary school, middle school and high school. The excitement for him was not much of the thrill I anticipated.

And then again, it wasn’t for me, either.

It was disappointing at best.

I took him past the first apartment my wife and I shared and Purdue University Calumet, where I learned about writing for newspapers. I drove through neighborhoods that were on my first “beat” of the first newspaper job I had.

All of it seemed as lackluster as seeing a pile of leaves being blown around, or as mundane as watching someone take their garbage out to the curb.

Normal stuff.

I will admit it was interesting to see Jean Shepherd’s childhood home on Cleveland St. in Hammond, IN. Shepherd is author of A Christmas Story.

It was also nice to go to the city — downtown Chicago — and see the buildings and wonderful architecture once again. And it was wonderful to once again eat a deep dish pizza at Gino’s East — my all time favorite pizza place.

Another highlight of the trip was taking my son to his first Chicago Cub’s game at Wrigley Field. He is a fourth generation Cub fan and going to Wrigley Field was a great experience for him.

It reminded me of all the times my father used to take me to Cub games in my childhood and teens. It was a great day and yes — the Cubs lost — blew the game in the 7th inning.

However, we still had a great time together and shared an experience we both surely won’t forget.

Which brings me to my point, Thomas Wolfe may have written the book and the famous expression, “You Can’t Go Home Again.”

And I guess you really can’t.

The trip made me realize you can go there, but everything may be different. You can’t experience or relive the same feelings, just by going to visit a building, driving in the traffic on the Dan Ryan Expressway, or driving past your childhood home.

What matters and what makes the difference is sharing your experience or event with a friend, family member and someone you love. Those experiences, no matter how great or small, are what make lasting memories.

It’s the people, relationships, love and friendships that create a home. The experiences in and around your home with loved ones then become memories that can last a lifetime.

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Gary Nelson is a Crossville Chronicle staffwriter. His column is published each Friday. He may be reached at gnelson@crossville-chronicle.com.