Gretchen Rubin

Do You Have Happy Memories of a Place Associated with Your Grandparents?

A few days ago, over on the Facebook Page, I asked the question, “What childhood places were most important to you?” I answered, “For me, the Plaza library in Kansas City. It has been renovated, and while it’s gorgeous and new, I wish I could still visit the library the way it was.”

More than a hundred people posted a response to this question, and I was struck by how frequently people mentioned a happy memory connected to a place associated with their grandparents.

Some themes:
-- the contrast between their usual home and their grandparents’ home – spending time on a farm, say, or visiting a very different city
-- being in the kitchen of their grandparents’ house
-- special activities they did when they visited their grandparents, like sewing or fishing

One person made a very interesting point. She grew up in a military family that moved a lot, so her grandparents’ house was important as the one place that stayed familiar; she observed that as people become more transient, this might become true for more people.

This subject is timely for me, because my older daughter just got back from a week's stay with my parents in Kansas City. My younger daughter went for her visit last month. Then we’ll all go back for another week in August. Their other set of grandparents lives right around the corner from our apartment, so it’s easy to plan times for visiting them. I’m so happy that they can have these visits, because I think relationships with grandparents are so important – and even the grandparents’ place.

Both my parents are from the same little Nebraska town, North Platte, and we would visit every summer. I could ride my bike from one grandparent house to the other. I remember so well the things we’d do, what we’d eat, the way each room smelled. And Fort Cody! I remember every aisle of that touristy emporium. (I just wondered: do they have a website? And here it is.)

In addition to getting to spend time with my beloved grandparents, one thing I love about those trips to North Platte is that it gave me another hometown – another place where I really knew the streets, the stores, the parks, the history, the best places to get ice cream. I’m very happy that my daughters will have this feeling about Kansas City, because as much as I love New York City and wouldn’t want to live anywhere else, it’s a very weird hometown. I remember Calvin Trillin (a fellow Kansas Citian transplanted to New York) writing that it took him a long time to realize that his children weren’t from Kansas City. I knew exactly what he meant.

How about you? Do you have any particular happy memories related to your grandparents? And the places associated with them?

* I really enjoyed checking out Simple Mom -- "Live simply, stay sane. Life hacks for home managers."

* There's been a lot of interest in the one-page discussion guide for book groups. Because so many people mentioned that they're reading The Happiness Project with their church group, or in a spirituality book group, and the like, I wrote another one-page discussion guide that focuses on the spiritual aspect. If you'd like either discussion guide (or both!), email me at grubin at gretchenrubin dot com.

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