I used to think about this a lot (and for some reason its coming up again) because a lot of the formative, important places in my life are gone.
Two of the houses we lived in in Utah are gone. The house we lived in during our two years in California (the one with dental tools in one of the basement windows...maybe that's its own post) is gone. My grandparents, both sets, have recently moved from the houses they've been in basically my whole life. Perhaps most strangely, my school, the one I went to from first grade to graduation (minus the stint in California), is now a tall office building. Although the field is still as weed-ridden and pockmarked as ever.
Even though there is an element of melancholy in this line of thought, mostly its not a big deal. Really its the people around you that are important and form you, and good people are always there. However, its something I find interesting to think about, and as a writer, it might be valuable to look at how places shape us, and why. Both for ourselves and our characters.
Which all leads me to the question, what is your most important place? Perhaps the immediate answer to that question for most people is "home," but because my family never lived in one house for more than about two years, I have formative memories in lots of different "homes" and the neighborhood where three of those houses were and the people in that neighborhood constitutes "home" for me, rather than one specific place. In other words, maybe you do have one solid childhood home that is your important place, and maybe its something else. But dig deep, and think about why that place has become part of you, and which parts of you could be tied back to that place.
I'm going to answer my own question, but I worry that this answer feels like I'm showing you what I see as a beautiful Van Gogh portrait, when a lot of people just see stick figures. And the thing is, I think it's actually both. People and places are complicated, and places are important to some people and incredibly unimportant to another, but neither is invalid.
With that said, I would actually say that the place most important to me is Disneyland. Especially since my school is gone and since my family is not living in the house I most consider Home. Some of my earliest memories are in Disneyland, which gives it more longevity for me than any house I've ever lived in. This is the place, more then any other, where my family is all together. This is the place where the people in my family who have a very hard time putting regular life away have learned how to do that and just be together. This is the place, no matter how different each member of my family is, we all have in common. This is the place we anticipate for months and regret leaving until we can anticipate it again.
And the thing is, people assume that the memories at your Most Important Place, especially at Disneyland, are superficially happy. And that's definitely not the case. Yes, most of the important memories are things like eating funnel cake while we save seats for Fantasmic or watching my teenage brothers dance down the street like the big dorks they are while music plays, or my brother seeing how loose he can get his seat belt on Tower of Terror without getting caught. (He got caught. Don't try it). But some of my families tensest moments have happened here too. Those moments are just as important in and of themselves, and also because they throw into relief the happy moments and make them so bright they almost hurt to look at.
Now its your turn to tell me. What is your most important place?