This evening, like countless evenings before, I drive away from my parents’ house, the house of my youth. The house that built me.
I drive in and out on this concrete multiple times per week. This is not surprising as I live in the same town where I grew up, and visit my parents’ house maybe more often than they prefer…
Life is funny. Not the comedic kind of funny, but more like the one that aches deep, down in your soul.
This driveway on Rosa Street always welcomes me. No matter my condition, I am never shut out.
And it always lets me go when I am ready, never holds me back.
I was 6 years old when we moved into this house and drove down that slope of a driveway for the first time.
It is the place where I watched my dad and big brother light fireworks on many ‘a 4th of July; the place my sisters, friends, and I rode bikes and played family neighborhood softball games in the summer… where I accidentally knocked out Bonnie Tucker’s tooth during my turn at bat.
This is the driveway I rode down on a skateboard because my big brother dared me to do it, and that gracious concrete drive caught me when I fell off said skateboard.
(It is becoming increasingly clear that I should not be allowed to swing baseball bats or ride skateboards.)
This is the driveway where we gathered to have family pictures when I was 13. My older, teenage brother, in the height of his rebellious ways, dyed his hair orange to spite my mom and her desire to have a nice family picture.
This same driveway welcomed my brother and me home later that night, engulfed by trauma and grief, after our dear friend died tragically at age 15.
I learned to drive here.
When I was 16, my now husband kissed me for the first time at the bottom of this driveway.
This is where he and I backed out in a convertible wearing a tuxedo and backless white dress as we headed to the Batesville High School Prom circa 2003.
And this is the driveway that held my nervous heart steady as I headed out to college in my black Grand Am.
I hurried home to this driveway when that high school sweetheart and I broke up in college. And it is where we drove home later that year for Thanksgiving break, hand in hand, reconciled.
My first panic attack ended in this driveway as an ambulance pulled in behind us because I was sure I was having a heart attack.
This is the driveway my high school sweetheart and I drove our tackily-decorated car – with cake and condoms – after our wedding, to retrieve a suitcase left at my parents’ house.
(Cake and condom décor happen when you get married at 21 and college boys decorate the getaway car. So classy.)
And it was here where two nuns dug through our backseat to help us find our keys so we could drive off to our honeymoon suite.
(That was fun to write!)
This driveway has welcomed my kids to their Docky and Gigi’s house since 2009.
And this is the driveway that took me in at 31 when everything else came crashing down around me.
Tonight is mundane. It is the usual. I drive out of this driveway with my 3 kids in tow. We lament of their daddy’s work schedule and how we miss him. We pass by the high school and one of the girls says, “That’s where you and daddy met, right?”
They then want me to tell them again of when I first saw that high school sweetheart boy.
So I tell them about missing the first day of 11th grade, and how I was kinda relieved because I never did like the first day of anything. When 3:00 rolled around, my two dear friends swiftly drove to my house – down this driveway – and came in my front door to tell me of “the new boy who was perfect for me”. He was cute and kind and believed in Jesus and liked to sing. Plus, he wasn’t super tall- and neither was I. “Ya’ll have so much in common,” they said.
He and I, we had chemistry class together. I hated chemistry…I loved that class.
We became friends. Then we became sweethearts.
We were only 16.
And now we are 34, with lives much different than we dreamed and hearts more fractured than we ever imagined.
When everything blew up around us, we separated.
But there’s something very very special about high school sweethearts: they know each other in a way that can’t be known if you didn’t experience high school and youth together.
There is a lot of research that discusses the pitfalls of getting married young and statistics of how high school loves are pretty much predestined to fail. Because…you aren’t really who you are when you’re a teenager.
That’s true. And I don’t disagree with the statistics…
But in some ways, I would argue, that I was the purest form of myself as a teenager. And he got to see and know that part of me. And I him.
Life will surely and absolutely change you. Some ways that are good, some ways not so good.
But he and I, we know each other. We grew up together. We have seen and experienced so many versions of ourselves together.
When the darkness came…. And the proverbial locust ate away a few years… I was still able to look at him with knowing.
I was faced with the reality of my ability and choice to walk away. I wanted so badly to forget what I knew. But with good counsel and truth I began to see him again, in his purest form. I saw that 16-year-old boy. If I had only known him for a year or so before we got married and had kids, I would have been tempted to believe that I never truly knew him.
Tonight…as our children simultaneously beam and act grossed out by the story of our young love, (total fakers, they love it!) I realize that those 16-year-old versions of ourselves are what beckoned us home again. He knew me. And I knew him. So we met at the truth of who we were and who we are and who we hoped to be.
And tonight I remember when I packed up that little red car… with our girls in the back and our boy in my belly… and slowly but surely started backing out. The driveway that always brought me home… was leading me home.