Caribou Coffee didn’t waste any time getting out of Chicagoland. I drove by my local coffeehouse last week, and the windows were already covered with brown butcher paper. I’m a little sad about this development. Sure, we still have Starbucks, but Caribou is a little less trendy and less expensive, which suits some of us quite well. One of my favorite columnists, Mary Schmich from the Chicago Tribune, wrote an article about Caribou Coffee’s retreat, and something she said about coffeehouses struck me. She describes coffeehouses as “a third place.” Your home is your first place and your work is your second place. (As a mostly stay-at-home mom, my first and second place seem to be the same–home.)
Schmich writes, “A third place is generally an unpretentious spot filled with regulars but open to anyone, where people of all kinds and social ranks mix, for little or no money.” People in my generation will imagine the coffeehouse of Friends, which was shown so often on that TV show that I think it was Rachel, Monica and Phoebe’s first place. However, I don’t think a coffeehouse qualifies as my third place. For one thing, I prefer to brew my own coffee at home. For another thing, when I go to Starbucks, Emmy wants me to buy her a cake pop for $1.25, which seems ridiculous even though I can’t make cake pops on my own. Trust me on this one.
Where is my third place, then? Unpretentious and open to anyone? In the past, it certainly would have been the bar where my husband and I would grab a pizza and a beer every weekend.
Before I met my husband, my third place was the public library. I loved the hushed reading area in the stacks at my library. The building was old and creaky, and there were French doors leading out to a small courtyard. It was a great place to spend a Saturday afternoon. The library became my third place again after our first child was born. I was a new stay-at-home mom, and didn’t quite know what to do with myself. The second story of the large, suburban library was perfect to find a quiet nook to nurse my newborn and read. As Lily grew, so did our time at the library. We went weekly to check out books and attend story time. Now that Lily and Emmy are both in school, we don’t go to the library as often as we did back then. One day, school was canceled when the power went out. Our first stop was the library. We saw many of Lily and Emmy’s friends there that morning!
The third place where I spend the most time, however, is my church. You can find me there every weekend. I’ve been attending the same church since 1981. I attended junior high at the parochial school. My first overnight trip without my parents was with my seventh grade class. When I was sixteen, I went on my first date with a boy in Youth Group (not my husband, but we are still friends). I met my husband, got married and baptized my children at St. Andrews. Now I teach Sunday school and direct VBS at my church.
Yes, I think my church is my third place.
Where is your third place?