Taking Time to Remember Places

This weekend marked the fifteenth summer my dad has participated in the Denver Chalk Art Festival. What started as a fun experiment – he hadn’t done many chalk murals before this experience – has turned into a marker of summertime for our family.

In the early years, my brother would drive down from Fort Collins and my parents up from Colorado Springs to stay in whatever un-air conditioned apartment I was renting close to downtown. My dad would draw all day in the hot sun while my mom, brother, and I would sit under a shady tree drinking countless Arnold Palmers.

It was at the Chalk Fest that Frank first met my parents, the only person wearing a dress shirt in the middle of a sweltering summer day. As our family grew, a weekend of hanging out turned into a morning visit before naptime. Now, our girls have a longer attention span and Bea even helps grandpa with the background coloring.

Each year has marked a difference in the growth of Denver. Our first summers were spent in the shade at a downtown park. Now, that park has been paved into a parking lot. The crowds have grown, too. Parking is at a premium, even in light rail lots and on these days, you can feel the groan of a small city becoming a big city.

I’ve been thinking about place a lot recently. Maybe it’s because Frank and I just returned from a week in Paris, a city that shaped my college years. Going back was a complex experience. I recognized a place where I had made big changes, transitioning from child to adult but also a city that hasn’t changed all that much in the past five hundred years.

In front of my favorite apartment in Paris

I was reminded of the importance of visiting places that have shaped us, whether for a few months, a few years, or a lifetime. There’s something about grounding my feet on the stones that had a part in shaping my theology, my worldview, and (though unknown to me at the time) my parenting.

Going to downtown Denver reminded me of those post-college years, when I returned to a state I had spent most of my childhood. Suddenly, I went from a world explorer to someone who returned home. Now, fifteen years later, it sometimes feels like I had never left at all. People who I have recently met most likely don’t even know I had lived abroad or traveled much before kids. It’s a weird feeling, having profoundly impacting experiences that were so long ago no one knows.

I wonder if, in fifteen or twenty years, we will leave the suburbs for a new adventure? Will I come back to this neighborhood with a sense of nostalgia, looking for a place to ground my new identity? I wonder how my girls will view this house and this space as they reflect on their childhood?

Mostly, I’m thankful for opportunities to go and remember the impact of a physical space on my journey. Whether it’s a trip to Paris or a morning spent downtown, I’m reminded of the importance of place in my story.

Is there a city or place that had a profound impact on your journey? Have you gone back to visit?

7 thoughts on “Taking Time to Remember Places

  1. Several places have had significant impact on my life. One of those special places is the farm my Aunt and Uncle had when I was a little girl. I was a city girl and knew nothing about farming, pigs, chickens and grapevines. I have the most wonderful memories of sharing time with family in Benson, NC. ๐Ÿ™‚

      1. Yes, we have gone back to visit over the years. Always amazing how I thought the place was huge and truly it was not that big. ๐Ÿ™‚ Wonderful memories.

  2. Annie, your post inspired a sonnet. Hope you like it.

    I’ve lived in many places
    and I never will return,
    ’cause it’s only the lost faces
    for which I, weeping, yearn.
    I’ll meet them on the other side;
    comfort, yes, but even so
    the landscape where the shades abide
    just lets the sadness grow.
    I think I’ll take tomorrow,
    and loose hold of yesteryear,
    let longing and past sorrow
    nourish hope, tear by tear.
    When at last this life is spent,
    I’ll be where my friends have went.

    1. Oh, that ache for a New City. I’ve been thinking about this a lot as I reflect on the past few experiences… I think that’s what this distills to.

  3. I especially enjoyed this post, Annie. As you can imagine, it’s very timely for me. Not only because of the transition we’re currently in but all the times I’ve moved in my life, cities and states. It’s very interesting to take note of the importance place has in our lives. Yet, it also seems important to try and keep perspective on its meaning. (Talking to myself there!)

    1. Oh, that perspective! I think there was a bit of mourning, too (especially in Paris) of the what-ifs and recognition of change (good! all!) Life is complicated and places remind us of that, don’t they?

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