“All these places have their moments…” – Lennon and McCartney
My father-in-law was here this morning for a while. Seeing him, naturally enough, made me think about my mother-in-law, and miss her. And my mom—and miss her, too. I gave him a cup of coffee and thought about how many cups of coffee there had been at how many tables and then I thought of places that have been important to me.
In case you didn’t know it, this is how a writer’s mind works. Forget any idea of sense or linearity or neatly dovetailing thoughts—there aren’t any of those. A writer’s mind is a whole lot like the junk drawer at the end of the cabinet, full and messy.
But, yes, places. Starting with kitchen tables. My mother’s, where the homemade bread and sugar cookies cooled and she taught me to iron pillowcases. My sister’s, where no one was ever a stranger. My mother-in-law’s, where we sat while she cooked and gave the grandkids whatever they asked for. The tables from our 30s where girlfriends and I sat and shared coffee and confidences. Our kitchen island now, where we play Farkle and I write Christmas cards and make plans. Kitchen tables are so many things—pulpits, confessionals, meditation sites, places of both privacy and society. They are where we laugh and cry and make life-changing decisions. They are important.
Desks have been instrumental since the first day of first grade, when I
Bleachers are way up there on my list. They are where I watched my kids grow up and learn things that might have been missed outside the arenas of sports, drama, and music. They’re where I had my first experience with civil disobedience back in high school. When I was 19, I sat in the bleachers at the softball diamond in Maconaquah Park and tried to figure out what I was going to do next.
Church. Obviously, it’s the accepted place to worship, but I believe you
Norris Lake, Tennessee is important because our family in its entirety spent Thanksgiving weekend there a few years ago. It was one of the best times I’ve ever had—it’s also the last time we’ve all been in the same place at the same time. That could be bittersweet, but it’s not—it’s all sweet. Although it’s important not to live in the past, keeping good memories in a pocket inside your heart is just as important.
The school up the road is important if for no other reason than there have been family members in it ever since it was built. It’s where I have so many memory bank deposits I can’t begin to keep track of them all.
There are so many others. Favorite vacation places, the side yard where the deer graze and the birds dive-bomb each other and the sun slips quietly and beautifully into the horizon, places I’ve voted, music that has been so stirring it created places of its own.
The pleasure in important places is that you don’t have to go back to them to experience them. As faulty as memory becomes—and it does—happy times still live there. You may not be able to remember how to get back to the physical places that are important to you, but you’ll remember how you felt there. You’ll remember the perfect meal with 16 of you at the table and the day you were laughing so hard you were falling off the barstools in the kitchen and the taste of those sugar cookies that you’ve never once been able to emulate. And you’ll know those places—and times—were important. Capture the joy.