Skip to Content

It’s not the stuff that creates good memories

The other day, my mom forwarded me a link to the listing for my grandparents’ house, which is now for sale.

(You may remember that my grandpa died last year, and I went to South Dakota to see my beloved childhood place one more time.)

No one needs the house anymore, so it’s been emptied and now it’s up for sale.

As I looked at the photos, I saw the house through a stranger’s eyes and I realized: the house is nothing special.

At least, not to anyone outside of my extended family.

If I were shopping for a house and I went to see this listing, I’d just see an old, kind of outdated fixer-upper with some seriously weird bathrooms.

the room I always slept in at my grandparents’ house

But to me, this house is one of the best places on earth, not because of the house itself, but because of the memories it holds.

The tiny kitchen, the unique sound the floor makes when you run up the stairs, the slightly musty smell in the basement, the odd little upstairs bathroom…all of those things are endearing to me because of the experiences I had in that house and because of how kind people there were to me.

In fact, to this day when I smell a slight scent of mildew, happy feelings come over me. Even though I KNOW mildew is not supposed to be a good smell. 😉

So that got me thinking about how this could be a really encouraging thing for all of us to remember: that the way you treat people and the way you make them feel is what impacts them and makes good memories.

We don’t have to offer fancy, expensive stuff to the people in our lives in order to create good memories…we just have to give them love and kindness and warmth.

And that’s something you can offer no matter your financial circumstances.

By the same token, it’s possible to have really negative feelings and memories about a beautiful house, an expensive vacation, or a brand new car if there’s  a lack of love, kindness, and warmth associated with those things.

There’s actually a proverb about that!

It’s not that you can’t have nice material things AND love, of course…that would be a false dichotomy.

I’m just saying that when we feel like the stuff we have to offer isn’t enough, it’s really good to remember that the stuff isn’t what matters!

If my grandparents’ little 1910 home in South Dakota can feel like the happiest place on earth to me, then I think all of us probably can create good memories and happy feelings with the people around us, right where we are, right at our income level, right now.

And that’s a happy thought. 🙂

P.S. Though I think this applies to lots of relationships, I think it’s especially encouraging to think about as a parent.   It’s easy to feel pressure to provide a lot of material goods to our kids, but it takes some of the pressure off if we remember that material goods aren’t the things that matter most.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Jill Chapman

Thursday 4th of October 2018

I, too, have a memory from the smell of mildew. My grandfather was a mechanic and he worked in their detached garage which had walls of just the studs - no drywall. He had every license plate he had ever had on any car he owned tacked up on the ceiling arch. And it smelled just mildewy, or musty, enough that it always triggers memories of him and that place for me. Funny, isn't it? Great post, Kristen - and we should all remember this more often.


Tuesday 2nd of October 2018

Two things- I LOVE the photos in this post. I feel like I have been there- you sure have an eye for composition! I wonder about the funny bathroom- one thing I have seen only in Iowa is that they add plumbing by putting it on the floor and building a "platform" for the toilet and sink to sit on. Is that what you mean? (in any case, can we see a photo of the bathroom, sometime?)

Linda Sand

Friday 28th of September 2018

As an adult I went back to my childhood church to see it decommissioned. The pastor performing the service expressed surprise at how we were mourning a building. But, it wasn't the building; it was the community there in which we had been families growing together. So many memories centered around that church family. I could probably write a whole book of those memories.


Friday 28th of September 2018

My grandpa was a smoker, and whenever I smell cigarette smoke in cold air, it makes me happy.


Friday 28th of September 2018

This doesn't really have to do with "home" although now that he has just bought his own home maybe it does. My son's favorite smell is that of a hockey rink at 5:00 am in the morning! So many early practise sessions on the ice bring back fond memories for him. So folks, before you grumble about getting out of bed for that predawn trip to the rink, remember, you are making special memories!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.