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Puerto HouseSome say you can never go home again. But we did…twenty years or so ago when we revisited our homes in Spain where we had lived during the time we were stationed at the Rota Naval Base. As civilians, we weren’t allowed to live on base. Most of us settled into nearby communities and housing areas. Our first home was in Puerto de Santa Maria, a coastal community on the Bay of Cadiz. It was a brand new duplex just down the street from Spain’s third largest bullring on the Avenida de los Constitution. We waited for it to be finished and moved in a week or so before Christmas 1974. In our time, the infant cypress inside the wrought iron fence barely screened the view of the house from inquiring eyes. Nearly twenty years later, in the early 90’s, our former home was well fortressed behind shrubs, a densely thatched fence, and locked gates. But from what we could view the house was essentially as we left it.

During that trip down memory lane nothing had changed to any great degree on the base, or in Puerto, except for a favorite bar/restaurant (with great pimientos fritos) morphing across the street from our home into a bank. We were pleasantly astonished that so much remained the same. It was easy to orient ourselves and to find the homes of former friends. Even the waiter at the bar down the street was still there as was the woman and her husband who held forth at the churros stand near the mercado.

Villa Toraya - Fuentebravia, SpainToward the end of our time in Spain, four months before we transferred to England, we moved into a larger home in an urbanization, a housing area, called Fuentebravia. It had been rented by other civilian friends working with Robert. We jumped at the chance of being closer to the base. While the children were summering with relatives in the States I painted this four bedroom, two story house by myself in 100+ weather…clad only in a bikini. Yeah, I know, it’s hard to imagine now…but a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do! When Robert and I visited the area in the early 90’s I took a chance and knocked on the front door…hoping that perhaps another American had rented the home just as we had. Sure enough, a teacher from David Glasgow Farragut. the base’s K-12 school, was now the tenant. He graciously invited us in and allowed me to photograph our previous home from stem to stern.

Now, forty years later, we’ve returned to show our daughter where she lived from 10 to almost 13. While virtually nothing had changed for my husband and I when we visited in the early 90’s, now everything had changed! Through a missionary friend at church we were able to arrange a tour of the naval base. Capt. Greg Sandway graciously shared his Saturday morning driving us around old familiar roads, but a completely unfamiliar base. Many of the buildings we’d known have been torn down and replaced – the office where Robert worked, the PX, the Commissary, the Officer’s Club…on and on. The kids’ school, DGF, was nearly unrecognizable with its growth and expansion. All that remained much the same were the movie theater and the drive-in. Oh, and the dread laundromat where a good week meant no lost socks.

Villa Toraya - AbandonedThe duplex in Puerto is no longer a duplex. The left hand side of the building (the owner’s residence) has either been cut away, torn down, or incorporated into a two story building housing a bank down below and a probable apartment above. The building butts right up to our former home which has undergone some modifications on the ground level as well. The house in Fuentebravia, which took a little effort to find, looked remarkably as we’d left it EXCEPT that it was now abandoned. The once lush bougainvillea that shaded the porch is dead. Weeds engulf the front and side yards. It was a surprising, sad discovery, but I guess that’s bound to happen after forty years. Homes don’t stay the same forever. We’ve had a lovely opportunity to revisit a unique time in our family’s life, to reminisce, and to come to terms with the reality that, in this case, we can’t go home again…at least not to these particular homes. There has been a certain contentment flowing out of our sad discoveries. We choose to call it closure. Knowing that home is found elsewhere.

What are your “going home” stories? What kinds of things remained to same? What had changed profoundly? If you experienced significant changes in “home,” how did you make peace with those changes? What helped bring closure?

2 comments to Home

  • Norrene

    Interesting that you visited your old residences so clearly and come home to list yours in Ventura. Life continues….so do places to live.

  • Jim

    We lived in Villa Toraya from 1973 to 1976. Maybe your family moved in after we left? Awful to see it in this state. My parents kept it immaculate with cut grass and gardens galore. Us four kids roamed Fuentabravia with much joy. I miss Rota immensely and hope to return with my wife someday. Thanks for the road down meme org road.

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