You can’t go home again.
There’s not a strictly scientific method in place for testing the veracity of that statement, but I can tell you that there was no invisible barrier in place that prevented Paul Corman from entering the premises at 214 N. Allegheny St. in Bellefonte.
Corman, who now lives in Indiana, was already there when I arrived, standing at the foot of a flagstone staircase that was flanked by two wrought iron handrails he used to paint by hand when he was a boy.
“It was a miserable job,” Corman said.
The real estate agent would like me to mention that said handrails are officially up for grabs, for the third time, no less, since Corman’s family sold the property more than two decades ago.
Houses get second, third, even fourth lives. People, typically, do not.
We just get older.
And Corman is significantly older now than he was the last time he stepped inside this place, this towering brick building next to the Centre County Library, which for all intents and purposes looks exactly the same as he remembers it from the outside.
This is an illusion, and he knows it. The building that once housed his father’s medical practice, his two siblings and his mother has passed through too many hands, rotated in and out of service as both a clinic and a private residence, to look even remotely the same.
And so my first question is, why bother?
I would like to phrase it nicer than that, of course. Nicer and more professional, that’s my mantra. Still Indiana is a long way away, and is that drive really conducive to what will amount to an hourlong trot down memory lane at most?
Up until the ripe old age of 9, I lived at 345 N. Farm Drive.
I can remember my mother practicing this with me in earnest, drilling it into my head in the event that one of us should ever become separated from the other and I needed to make my way back home.
It was a nice house. My dad built us a play set. We had our first computer there. I invited the prettiest girl in kindergarten over for a play date and she said yes.
When my little sister outgrew the nursery, my dad remodeled the attic into another bedroom. After my brother was born, my folks officially began looking for a plot of land where they could build a bigger house.
They found one just down the street, less than a minute away from 345 N. Farm Drive.
I was just finishing up the third grade when we moved. My childhood memories were still a work in progress so I can’t really say that the separation between boy and house was as traumatic as it might have been if I was older.
This wasn’t so much a new chapter as it was just switching to a bigger font.
Connie Lacy, Corman’s sister, was much older when she spent her last night in her childhood home.
Lacy’s mother died in 1991, and she and her brother moved their father into an assisted living facility in 1992.
In a way, their family had also outgrown their house, but leaving it behind would mark a more permanent shift, a point of demarcation for anyone looking to tack on a “before” and “after” in their life.
“I swore I would never come back here,” Lacy said.
It was a vow made for roughly the same reason that I don’t look up that cute girl from my kindergarten class and try to rekindle the old fire.
It just wouldn’t be the same.
Still, here she was, back in the old house with her brother, comparing wallpaper and musing about the paint selections made by previous owners.
“The pictures online did not do the renovations justice,” Lacy said.
It was curiosity that had brought her here more than anything else. Lacy’s niece had told her that the property was back on the market and so she flew back into town.
When else would she have this opportunity?
There were changes. Of course there were changes. The kitchen is now the laundry room and her father’s old treatment room is now the kitchen (of which she enthusiastically approved).
These were mostly idle curiosities though, the way that you might go to a high school reunion to see who lost weight or hair.
Most of their time was spent on the third-story landing, telling stories about snowball fights or pranks that they used to play on the maid — and it suddenly became very clear what the value of this excursion was, why it was worth the hotel fees and airfare.
“It was just a wonderful, wonderful house,” Lacy said.