Like so many fathers out there, my dad is incredibly hard to shop for on Father’s Day. He’ll smile and say “Thanks!!” for anything we give him, and if the gift were a clump of dirt wrapped in a leaf that was sealed with spit, he would proclaim it the most glorious leaf, the exact dirt clump he’d been needing, and the cleverest spit anyone had ever received.
His easygoing nature has inadvertently made gift-giving occasions harder. What can we ever give him that is fitting for a guy so affable and low maintenance? I think I finally have something: I’d like to have a street named for him.
Specifically, I am thinking of petitioning the city elders of my hometown to rename the driveway of my childhood home “Larry Lane.” So many of my childhood memories center on that expanse of asphalt, and what my dad was doing in relation to it while I was growing up, that he and the driveway are kind of inseparable in my mind.
We lived on a quiet suburban street with no sidewalks, but tons and tons of kids. We roamed in a ‘70s style pack, ranging from a little kid we nicknamed Chuck the Rock all the way up to the long-haired hippie Cline boys who were really more men than boys. And the pack almost always started its adventures off in our driveway, because it was so roomy.
The driveway, which I have expertly rendered below using all of my art skillz, looked like an afterthought by the city planners, a continuation of the road that led into it. But it dead ended into a chain link fence. Many were the times when we looked out the window over the kitchen sink to see a confused driver sheepishly and slowly backing out of our driveway, having discovered that Fernboro Road just…stopped. We called that no-man’s land of the dead-end “The Ordinary Woods.” Neither woody nor ordinary, that’s just what we called it, and everyone in the neighborhood knew its name.
Our house sat on one side of that elongated T-shape, and the Clines were on the other side. In between was the most glorious freeform playground known to man.
The driveway was long, flat, and smooth, which meant it was the perfect spot for shaky bike riders and roller skaters and skateboarders to practice while staying out of traffic. Long before I can remember, my dad put up a basketball hoop at one end, so the big boys and girls could shoot hoops while the rest of us rolled around on various wheel sizes. Dad would be out there mowing the lawn or trimming the shrubs while we cavorted, but in those days parents didn’t feel the need to be in on every one of their kids’ activities. We no more cared about my dad and his yard work than he did us and our eternal games of Ten Sticks, and everyone was fine with the arrangement.
There was one exception; he loved to play catch with his three kids. After dinner we all went out with mitts to the driveway while he threw to us, mixing in pop flies with regular throws. I have virtually no hand-eye coordination, but thanks to my dad and his patient throwing I at least survived my solo season in the town softball league.
In the fall, my dad would be out next to the driveway raking, and in the winter he was the man with the shovel. This was probably the time of year when he least enjoyed the copious expanse of blacktop. He wasn’t insane: he paid for a snowplow to clean the Rochester snow out the driveway, which would have been a full time job otherwise. The plow pushed all the snow from the driveway into the Ordinary Woods, creating a short steep iceberg-shaped hill that kept us entertained on our saucers and sleds for hours.
Eventually spring would arrive. Sometimes not until late May, but it would finally arrive. That’s when Dad would carefully remove the custom built wooden a-frames he’d made to protect the azaleas that flanked our front door; by all rights they probably shouldn’t have survived in Rochester, but my father babied them. Lifting those covers off was as much a sign of spring as the buds on the cherry tree.
The driveway was the spot for events that Dad and Mom hosted – garage sales and after parties (what, you people didn’t throw garage sale after parties?) graduation parties, Memorial Day volleyball games and picnics. The driveway social scene wasn’t fancy – bring your own lawn chair and BYOB – and it wasn’t pretentious. But it anchored a happy childhood.
Just like my dad.
Instead of embedding a video today I’ll encourage you to follow this link http://www.thewildernessdowntown.com/ . It’s a very cool Arcade Fire interactive video where the magic of Google customizes the video for your experience. Type in the street that you think you should be named for your dad and report back!