Happiness: Taking Tourist Photos of My Own Romance.

On Saturday, I took the train up to New Haven for my college reunion. I went to Yale both for college and law school, so returning there is always a very intense experience. Mostly pleasant.

Even though I spent most of the day in undergrad nostalgia mode, I also took an hour to walk through the law school. (I also considered visiting the sole copy of J. M. Barrie’s The Boy Castaways of Black Lake Island, at its home in the Beinecke Library, but I ran out of time.)

A few weeks ago, I posted one of my all-time favorite posts: about how seeing the movie Twilight had reminded me of the time when my husband and I were falling in love, and had inspired me to do a better job with some of my resolutions.

Many of my resolutions are aimed at helping me keep happy memories vivid (e.g., Be a treasure house of happy memories) and also at helping me stay tender and romantic. As a way to keep both sets of resolutions, I decided to take photos of some of the most important sites in our falling-in-love story:
We met because our carrels were back-to-back in the law library. This is the carrel I used.

Here’s the staircase where we ran into each other that time.
This is the Anchor Bar. A big group went there one night, and on the way out, he casually asked if I wanted to have breakfast at the Copper Kitchen diner the next morning, before our Corporations class. I didn’t sleep all night.
Here’s the Copper Kitchen.
Here’s the picnic table where he was sitting with a bunch of people when I came down from my dorm room to announce that I’d broken up with my boyfriend.
Here’s the bench where we held hands for the first time.
I’m so glad I took these pictures. Everything changes, and one day the Copper Kitchen and the picnic bench and even that marble staircase will be gone, but now I have my record.

I’m reminded of a postcard I kept above my desk during college, of a work by Duane Michals: This photograph is my proof. The photograph shows a couple sitting cozily on a bed, and underneath is written, “This photograph is my proof. There was that afternoon when things were still good between us, and she embraced me. And we were so happy. It did happen. She did love me. Look, see for yourself!”

Ah, I have my photograph and my proof.

* The always interesting Marci Alboher sent me the link to a great post, Can Cooking Make You Happier? at

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  • August

    LOVE THIS POST! What an awesome idea!!!!

  • This is awesome! What a wonderful idea to keep the memories for you and to share with your kids. Love!

  • @elizabethcraft

    I remember hearing about all those moments at the time. Long looks across the crowded table over pizza. Nice memories even vicariously.

  • new haven

    the copper kettle closed in the spring of 2011 🙁

    • gretchenrubin

      I heard….very sad.

  • Jean

    The Duane Michals link doesn’t seem to take us to a photo – here’s a link with the photo and more about the photographer http://www.arynkresol.com/2009/11/addicted-duane-michals.html

    • gretchenrubin


  • I too only have chunks of memories from college… wish I had more photos of my dorm and the campus… it really IS too easy to forget- so from now on I am going to remember NOT to forget!! And snap more photos of everyday life in the here and now. THANKS

  • Jasmine

    I love this post. I’m doing my doctoral work at Yale Forestry School now where the memories will be strong and mostly pleasant. You’ve inspired me to photograph East Rock, the food carts, Kroon Hall, all of it. I also didn’t realize that my favorite blogger (you) went to Yale. Thank you.

    • gretchenrubin

      Terrific! Yes, I went to Yale and Yale Law School. East Rock! Happy memories.

  • Carolyn

    My daughter, the mother of an 8-year old, has no camera. I have two. This post reminds me of the importance of a photographic history, and also of a recent resolution of mine – be a friend. I can be that friend and give her one of the cameras. Also reducing clutter! My daughter lives several states away from my husband and me and I miss her terribly. By sending her this camera, I will be connecting the miles (another resolution) and embracing one of my secrets of adulthood, “love is primarily an action word.” Thank you, Gretchen, for helping me help me.

  • Cassie

    I love that you have done this! What a great idea! One Anniversary you should go with your husband and recreate the photos with him! (cheesy I know but I bet it will be really fun!)

  • brainysmurf

    Beautiful, Gretchen, thank you for sharing your photo love story! The everyday places are the ones that trigger so many memories and they are too easy to forget and, as someone noted here, too easily demolished, closed or turned into something else. An artist in my hometown is starting to make t-shirts of legendary signs in the area (restaurants, movie theatres) and it’s so much fun to see them again, years after they disappeared.

  • Jim

    Interesting discussion, several years ago I was returning home from a business trip when I got to thing of my children, it was before cell phones with camera apps were so common, at that moment I could not grasp the feeling of holding any of my children close. I am talking so close you can feel their tiny heart beats. It has plagued me for many years now, that experience that broke me into tears. Today I use every opportunity to hug them and my grandchildren as well as great grand children long enough to capture that feeling deep in my heart so that I never go through that experience again. If I had this advise today I would have taken more photos and organized them better so that each one tells a story of the love I carry in my heart for them.