Think about it. Where did you first learn to pedal a tricycle all by yourself? In the driveway, of course. (Just like grandson, Liam, shown here in April.) And I can still remember the feeling in the pit of my stomach the day I stood next to my dad and watched him take the training wheels off my first bike. By the end of the afternoon I was making my wobbly way from one end of the driveway to the other, skinned knees shining in the sunlight.
That same driveway later became the setting for conquests of a different kind. One of my first boyfriends, let’s just call him Harold since that was his name, came over to see me on his new red Moped. He thought he was really cool, and I was at least impressed enough to spend all afternoon standing next to him in the driveway as he straddled his bike and we both tried to think of something to say.
That was just the beginning of driveway romances. Hasn’t it been the same for generations? The car pulls into the driveway. The young couple inside takes advantage of being alone in the dark to steal a kiss…or two…or three…until the porch light starts flashing off and on and the girl knows it’s time to come in.
My dad went beyond flashing the light. Some time during my high school years we bought an electric organ, and Dad chose curfew time to sit down and try to play some of the hymns in the booklet that came with it. Nothing got me into the house faster than hearing the first few chords of his screechy rendition of “Bringing in the Sheaves” wafting through the living room windows.
Of course, learning to drive a car began in the driveway for most of us. Back and forth. Back and forth. When I first laid eyes on my first car, a used, white Chevy II with blue interior, it was sitting in the driveway in front of our house. A dream-come-true on wheels.
Once when I was on a radio talk show I began exchanging driveway memories with callers. An older man reminisced about helping his dad work on Buicks in the driveway. The two of them had their most significant conversations between “pass me the wrench” and “OK, give it some gas.” Somehow it’s easier to talk about touchy subjects like the “birds and bees” when you’re busy working at the same time. (Sort of like the kind of conversation moms and daughters used to have drying dishes together before dishwashers.)
Our photo albums are peppered with various driveway good-bye scenes. I imagine myself wearing a college sweatshirt and waving a pompon or two as each of my boys left for college for the first time, but the photos seem to show I was in a bathrobe with a bit of pancake batter smeared down the front. Look closely enough and you can also see the tracks of my tears. Those were wrenching good-byes.
The photos of my married sons on my desk now were both taken in driveways. In each one, a grinning young man is accompanied by his smiling bride as, vehicles packed, the newlyweds prepare to drive away together. “Bye, Mom!” they seem to say. “We’re off!”
Not everything that happens in the driveway is worth remembering. I once had a wreck in mine. As I was ready to pull out on my way to work, a car rolled down a steep driveway across the street from us. By the time I realized there wasn’t a driver inside, it was too late to get out of the way, and the runaway car smashed right into mine. “You aren’t going to believe this,” I said to my husband as he emerged from his shower moments later. “I just had a wreck, and I never left the driveway.”
Bringing new babies home, posing for prom pictures, visiting with neighbors…all of life can be lived out in the driveway. Proceed with caution.