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?

The Sweetness of Milestones

We walked to Bea’s new school the other day to meet her kindergarten teacher. When she started preschool, I didn’t cry. I saw how ready Bea was for that new adventure and it seemed so right for our family.

IMG_5702But as we walked through the halls of this big school, as friendly teachers and staff greeted us and helped us navigate our way to the new classroom, as we stood outside and peeked in, tears pricked my eyes. I realized what a milestone kindergarten will be, this embarkment into a great world of learning and discovery and independence.

Standing in the library later with the one family we knew from preschool, we talked about how this is it. For the next six years, this place will define our time and schedule. It will define a lot of our choices and how we respond to them. It will help shape our kids into the lifelong learners we’ve been hoping for already.

I’m incredibly excited for Bea to start kindergarten. She is ready and excited. She’s the type of student that will do just fine – friendly, kind, conscientious, a rule-follower. But, as with so many transitions, there’s something a little bittersweet. Our days of exploration and discovery at home are over. Our flexible schedule and ability to have midweek adventures are being traded for a wider world. It’s all good, but there is still a little heartache at seeing how quickly time really does speed along.

Life is bittersweet, isn’t it? What was your favorite grade in school? If you’re a parent, which transition was your favorite? And, did you cry on the first day of kindergarten?

Linked with Five Minute Friday, a time to write without editing. Today’s prompt is “place.”