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?

Crowd

Frank and I had been on two dates when I invited him to the Denver Chalk Fest. It’s an annual event in downtown Denver, a weekend when hundreds of artists create temporary chalk murals in the street. My dad had been participating several years and I thought it would be a fun, informal way for Frank to meet my parents.

When the chalk fest began, it was always held over Father’s Day weekend and it seemed to be the hottest weekend in the summer. (It has since moved to the first weekend in June…) Summer, chalk on hot pavement, and crowds of people pushing against each other to see the artwork may have made the days seem hotter than they were. I remember my mom and I were sitting in camp chairs, drinking cold Arnold Palmer’s, sweltering. My mom saw Frank before I did and she loved to tell how she first spotted his gigantic smile as he made his way through the crowds. I first spotted a man in nice jeans and a long-sleeved dress shirt. I wondered if he was crazy, but now I realize that’s who Frank is: A man who dresses up for an occasion.

He arrived late in the afternoon, just when my dad most needed a cold beer. He took a break and we gathered at The Market for beers with my parents and their best friends. Looking back, it sounds like a lot of close people early in the relationship, but it was a great, informal way for Frank to meet the important adults in my life.

Cold beers at the Chalk Fest
Cold beers at the Chalk Fest

Now, six years later, Frank is my dad’s assistant and they spend the weekend chalking together.

Linked with Lisa-Jo Baker’s Five Minute Friday, a time to write for five minutes without editing.