I truly wish I could’ve seen the look on my own face Sunday evening when the girls and I rounded the last bend of the “Hainted Hollar” prepared to hit the left turn into Momma and Daddy’s driveway at full speed as we’d done nearly every time in the last year or so.
We’d trained ourselves to approach it this way ever since it became obvious that if we hesitated, we wouldn’t make it up.
My parents have lived atop this particular hill for going on 30 years now, and the driveway has always been something with which we’ve had to contend. When it came a heavy rain, the ruts could get so deep daddy’s little squirrel dog Trixie could fall in and get lost. If there was a little snow or ice, we all left the house knowing there was good possibility we’d be walking at least part of the way back.
Countless hours by Daddy and my uncles have been spent grating and leveling between the storms. The prettiest white gravel you’ve ever seen would pour by the load-full into the highway if the rain didn’t fall just right the day or two after it’d been delivered. All that money washed out in the road was disheartening to Daddy and a hazard to the motorcyclists who love that stretch of road for all the reasons we love it too. It winds and rises and falls and straightens out at all the right intervals.
We’ve been at this cycle for awhile. We know the routine. But this year, the usual remedies that had always been temporary were even more fleeting now- if they were helpful at all. If didn’t rain a little, the gravel was too loose and you’d spin out. If it rained too much, it was exactly as you’d expect driving over a ditch, uphill, in a Prius to be.
Now there’s nothing that’s gonna keep me from my people. I’m a “come hell or high water” kind of girl, so while it was a little embarrassing to have to back down the hill a time or two, the driveway challenge was just a thing I’d come to accept and maybe even enjoy a little bit. Based on the weather conditions Friday and Saturday, and factoring in who was driving, we’d each wager whether we thought we’d make it in one try or whether we’d even make it all up the hill to Sunday dinner.
All bets are off now. It’s a sure thing. Momma and Daddy have hit the big time. They’ve blacktopped the driveway.
I had to pick my jaw up out of the floorboard of the Prius that just whizzed right up to the carport where Mom sat in the rocking chair with a big, self-satisfied grin. She’d surprised us REAL good.
It smells funny. It looks foreign. But you can drive right up it. Unbelievable.
I was 10 years old when Momma and Daddy bought that house at auction for a song, and we moved from the double-wide I’d lived in all my life to that BRICK house on the hill. I thought we’d really moved up in the world then. Mom marveled at how there wasn’t a place for anything in that big (simple three bedroom, one-bath) house, and while I didn’t like that it was further from my MaMa, I felt like a princess. It was brick y’all. It had a BASEMENT.
Later in life when I recounted this tale to my first husband who’d grown up in Louisville, he remarked that there the housing projects were brick and often referred to as “the bricks” so moving into a brick house didn’t bear the same connotation for him. It really is all a matter of perspective I suppose, but I feel certain little girl me would not have been able to contain her sense of superiority had there been a blacktop driveway back then.
Now it’s more of a mixed bag. While I’m sincerely happy to think this change might bring a little more ease to my parents’ lives, it feels like the end of an era.
Struggle is a part of rural legacy and identity. Y’all know that. We do hard things. We live in inconvenient ways sometimes out of necessity but other times out of choice because it weeds out the weak and offers the most glorious views. Who would we be if life got too easy?
It should be noted, however, that when I arrived on Sunday Daddy had yet to drive on this new blacktop and that he just recently took his first (and last as far as I know) shower in the main floor bathroom. He and Mom had it renovated “for convenience” SEVERAL years ago, but instead of using this new convenience, he prefers to continue to use the basement shower in which a man above average height cannot stand straight. And just a summer or two ago, instead of adding a second bathroom he added an outhouse to the back yard.
So I reckon my parents aren’t really changing all that much, and though nothing could ever keep me away, I’ll welcome anything that makes it a little easier to get home.