Lessons From The Straight And Narrow
I stopped today on a busy street to let some poor schmuck get out of his driveway. A whole bunch of memories drove off with him.
When I was a little kid, I lived in a three-family house. My Aunt Evelyn and Uncle Bo and their three kids lived on the first floor. We – Mom and Dad and four kids – were on the second floor. And Grandma (my father and Aunt Evelyn’s mother) lived in the small attic apartment.
Our house was painted yellow and green – first floor yellow and top floors green. Two-color multifamily homes were very common in central Connecticut. And I loved the paint scheme. I remember feeling sorry for my friend who lived in a brown house.
I can’t seem to find any pictures of that old house. It still stands today, but I would not take a photo today – it is so transformed – and not in a good way.
But here is a photo of a house amazingly similar to the one we lived in. In the original photo, the house is brown and yellow. I’ve photoshopped (amateurly, I will admit) in my beloved green.
As an aside – the house that had the telephone ghost was originally beige. When we repainted a few years after moving in, we chose yellow. The color turned out a bit brighter than it looked on the little card. Our neighbors said they needed sunglasses to drive by.
And our house now – is BROWN! Cedar shingles, actually, but how is that for the evolution of taste?
But back to our yellow-and-green house.
I loved everything about that house. The heavy varnish on the floors. The big flowered wallpaper. The pantry off the kitchen. The clotheslines from the back porch to corner of the yard. But there was something about that house that drove the adults crazy.
On the right side of the house there was a very narrow driveway. The photo I posted of my first communion gives you a glimpse.
Because this picture was taken on a Sunday, there’s something missing.
Across the street from our yellow-and-green house was this:
That’s our front yard, with my Mom on the left and Aunt Evelyn on the right. And behind them is New Departure, the biggest factory in Bristol, Connecticut. Across the street. And I know that this photo was also taken on a Sunday because the same thing is missing as is missing from the driveway photo.
When you live across the street from a big, busy factory, there is a LOT of traffic.
Hence the adult aggravation.
Because for most of the time we lived there, there were three cars: My Uncle Bo’s – which was usually a huge station wagon. (See it behind us – looming hearse-like behind the communion picture?) And my Dad’s – something long with fins. And my Mom’s – anything inexpensive to get her back and forth to work.
So with a narrow driveway on a busy street, parking took mucho coordination.
Because at the end of the day, when everyone got home, the driveway looked like this:
Uncle Bo worked an early shift and got home first. Then my Mom came home. Then Dad.
But in the morning, Uncle Bo needed to go to work first. My cousin Susan says that he couldn’t bear the thought of ever being late, so he liked to be at work a little early – like ninety minutes or so. Then my dad left for work. Then my Mom followed shortly after.
So the cars needed to be like this for the morning:
So every single weeknight the cars had to be rearranged. And you couldn’t even attempt it during the shift change at the factory. No one in our house EVER left the driveway during shift change. But after dinner, you could manage to pull out if you were quick and had nerves of steel.
And it took some planning.
Dad would pull out. If he was lucky enough to get a big break in the traffic, he would pull out into the opposite lane. But usually he pulled out into the near right hand lane and drove around the block. Then Mom backed out her car – also into the right hand lane. If traffic was light and she could wait at the curb, she would. But that hardly ever happened, so she also drove around the block. Then Uncle Bo backed out his big wagon and drove around several blocks – to ensure he got back last. Dad would wait on the side street for Mom to get back so she could pull in first. Then he’d park behind her. And then Uncle Bo would get back from his excursion and be the last one in.
Every night. Rain. Snow. Whatever. They would perform the ‘Musical Chairs With Cars’ routine.
And I learned a couple of useful Life Lessons from witnessing this never-ending production.
1. Get ready for work the night before. It makes the morning so much easier.
2. Cooperation is important to get stuff done. And it doesn’t hurt to have an agreed-upon plan.
3. Every day of your adult life, there’s annoying shit you have to do. So what? Just do it.