They say you once you leave a place, you can never go home again. It’s true. Sometimes that’s a good thing.

Last week’s provincial lacrosse tournament brought me, and my son, back to my hometown of Whitby. I was heading to the arena of my youth, dragging a ridiculously heavy lacrosse bag behind me. If only my childhood friends could have seen me. I can hear the laughter now. Irony personified.

Luckily, I knew my way around town, or so I thought.  The little arena where I took my first swimming lessons, or the ice pad where I proved I was no Dorothy Hamill (despite mimicking her hair cut) was not the place I remembered. Now it was a mega sportsplex with a food court and several arenas that required a map to navigate. Shocking.

Feeling nostalgic, I took my son on a tour of my hometown. As you can well imagine, he was thrilled, because really, what kid doesn’t want to listen to his mother drudge up all the melancholy half-truths of her otherwise perfectly idealized youth? I added a sprinkle of tragic irony that at one time, both his parents lived in the same town and never knew each other. My son cared; he just had a hard time expressing it. Ahem.

Maybe it’s because I insisted I prove my childhood hardships by driving the route I walked home from school every day, all alone, since the age of six, up a hill, along a major highway, then across a major intersection to yet another hill of which I lived at the top. “In the rain and the snow,” I added emphatically. My son yawned.

I lost some composure when we drove past my primary school to find it boarded up, slated for demolition and condominium landfill. Lovely.  A modern facsimile had replaced my middle school too. I couldn’t even look at my high school, out of fear that my romantic memories of my formative years would be shattered.

I pulled upside of the house I grew up in. The tree I planted in the yard in 1975 was huge now. “Wow, you are old,” my son said.  Hmph.

“And there’s the field we had a fort in. My babysitter lived there. My best friend lived over there. And way over there is the place I was allowed to walk for french fries without my mother ever knowing, because guess what? Mothers didn’t care back then. They wanted us gone. There were no mobile phones or two-way radios to track us either. We came home when the street lights came on.” Good times. My son raised an eyebrow. Freedom? What would that be like?

The trip would not have been complete without a short rant about the social cruelty of my parents moving me from my beloved town at the tender age of 16, the highlight of my high school popularity (cough). I believe I got an eye roll for that one.

The past belongs in the past.

Watching my son’s lacrosse team rip around the arena floor creating their own childhood memories made me proud. Maybe you can’t go home again, or maybe you can but you should Google map it first.

Either way, home isn’t a place; it’s a state of mind. My home is wherever that lacrosse kid goes. I’m okay with that.