In the fall of my senior year of college—which as I type this I realize was nine years ago, YIKES—I studied abroad in Australia. While there, one of my absolute favorite things was to write and receive letters from friends and family back home.
I love mail in general, but being a whole continent away and receiving things from the people I loved back home not only made the first few weeks easier to adjust, but made the remaining five months all the more fun. I was practically a regular at the post office, and there was an entire drawer of my desk filled with envelopes, stamps, and handwritten letters that I still have to this day.
One that stood out was a postcard from my grandpa. “You’re not the only world traveler!” the note on the back started, “Grandma and I went to Denmark. Played golf & ate at Anderson’s Split Pea Soup Restaurant. Quite a trip – took 1hr & 15min each way. Saw lots of Danish shops & houses. Took 3 days so we were exhausted when we got home. Love you bunches – Gma & Gpa”
Maybe it was the startling opening of my grandparents being in “Denmark”, maybe it was the note explaining it had taken them one hour and 15 minutes to get there—from California—or maybe it was just because I hadn’t head of Solvang before, but I never forgot this postcard. It made me smile thinking about my grandma and grandpa on vacation, golfing and exploring this strange and—judging by the pictures on the front of the postcard—very cute town.
A few years later, after my grandma passed away, this postcard became even more sentimental. I felt like it was a tangible memory from their marriage and of the life they lived together—a little piece that they wanted to share with me, that I could have forever. And so just as I kept the postcard, I kept a constant curiosity about Solvang—wondering what it would feel like to stand where they stood all those years ago. And this past weekend, I finally got the chance.
To celebrate my dad’s 60th birthday, our family of five spent the weekend in Solvang. We walked around and saw all the Danish shops and houses, we ate split pea soup at Anderson’s, and though we didn’t play golf, we did go wine tasting and feed some ostriches. (Yes, you read that right.)
We did Solvang our way, just as my grandma and grandpa had done it their way. And even though our trips were almost a decade apart, I still felt like they were right there with me. I still looked for the two of them walking down the street up ahead of me, and imagined them sharing split pea soup in the booth next to us.
Being where they had been made the postcard come to life, and caused it to hit me in a different way. It made me sad knowing that when my grandpa wrote that note to me, none of us had any idea we’d be losing grandma less than a year later. It made me wonder and worry about what might be coming in this decade to follow my own trip to Solvang. But then, it also made me think again about their trip. About the forethought they had to grab a postcard for me, one of their 11 grandkids and 3 great-grandchildren (at the time), and about how much that said about them and the love they had for each and everyone of us. It made me happy to think that they went on this trip and so many others, building their lives together and sharing it with us.
On our last day in Solvang, I grabbed a small, souvenir windmill that is now sitting on my desk. Maybe one day someone will ask me about it and I will pull out the postcard to explain where it all started. Maybe that will inspire another generation to take that trip, and as they walk down the streets and eat split pea soup they’ll look for me just as I looked for my grandma and grandpa, and just like that we’ll all be together again.