Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Driveways: The One Time Social Center Of The Universe

Earlier this week, my son asked me to go outside with him and play catch. So we did. Except for the creaky knees, throbbing veins in my ankles and inability to bend on my part, it was all very Norman Rockwell. After we tossed the ball around, he decided he was bored and wanted to ride his scooter instead. I sat on the porch watching him and the neighborhood around him. A little backstory is necessary.

About a year and half ago I bought the house I grew up in from my parents, so I'm raising my family in the house where I was raised. Not much has changed about the neighborhood. A lot of the same neighbors still live here so it's probably weird for them to see the same kid that was always in trouble or up to some shenanigans is now playing the part of parent. 

So, I'm sitting on the porch watching my son and the neighborhood, three cars cars came down the street. One right after another followed a little later on by a third. This is unusual because our street is at the end of the development and isn't a thoroughfare. All three cars had the same destination, across the street and a few houses down. The house where my friend John Anzalone used to live. When the third car showed up, someone came out from inside as the driver got out. They were both young men. (I assume, I've reached the age where anyone under the age of 35 looks 17 to me)  And they just were hanging out, talking, one leaning against the back of his car. I didn't eavesdrop, but I've been where they are. Standing in the driveway, talking about what young men talk about: girls, cars, music, sports, where they were going that night or over the weekend. I've been there. We've all been there. It's just a different driveway.

Not bad for stock photography. 

The Tenshaws. The LaDukes. The Cases. The Hartmans. The Kellys. The Wolffs. The Montos. Grandma Toni's. The names change. The driveways change. The years change. The topics don't.

I can in my mind's eye remember conversations, scenarios and crises created and averted in those driveways. When we were younger, games were created and played. Pictures drawn with chalk. It was often our first boundary. As we got older, the driveway became more. It was neutral ground. It was the starting point and the ending point. There were first kisses. Last kisses. Questionable make-out sessions and the inevitable getting caught. Things thrown at one another, both physical items (my legendary "Z" hat was flung at me several times) and verbal grenades. Break-up. Questions asked and answered. New cars admired. Old cars complained about. Everything. And sometimes nothing at all. And that was the beauty of it. And the power of it. No text messages. No phone calls. Just showing up to shoot the shit with another person about what's going on in their lives. And my neighbors were fully engrossed in it. For a moment, there was a 90s vibe to my neighborhood and it made me happy.

2 comments: said...

I've been reading Wendell Berry and he talks about the old idea of children remaining at home or returning home. Not necessarily living with the parents like that weird guy whose parents finally had to evict him, but living in the same community in which they grew. It's more than a lovely idea, it's a good one, a way of building community and reminding ourselves that what we've been told is good for us (economic prosperity of big business, "easy" credit, "cheap" gasoline) don't usually feel especially good within the confines of our smaller communities. Instead, what feels good is taking care of one another, knowing our neighbors, and caring locally (which turns out to be far less selfish than buying from Amazon or watching cable news).

I live a mile and a half from my mother's house and four miles from my brother. My best friend is less than two miles away. I think about my daughter going to college next year (nearly two hours away) and hope that she will return here where she would be a tremendous asset to the community. I consider my younger daughter's concern for the environment and keep trying to turn her to looking at the choices she can make very locally.

All of this is the driveway you've described to me, though I'm going Wendell Berry's direction while I think you're much more headed in John Hughes's way. Both are good and yours, it turns out, is a hell of a better read.

John Zeleznik said...

I like that comparison to our're Wendell Berry to my John Hughes.