The Long White Driveway

I took a week-long class in nonfiction writing at last month’s Port Townsend Writer’s Conference.  One day our instructor, Professor Sayantani Dasgupta (author of Fire Girl) asked us to draw a map-diagram of our childhood home.  Sayantani mentioned that drawing a diagram, a sketch, or a map is a great tool to unlock a piece of nonfiction writing. Today I wrote a short memoir piece as a companion to the map of my childhood home I drew at the conference.  I thought twice about publishing this memory piece because it is a little sad.  But I also feel that we all understand about childhood sadnesses and how it feels to look back on these times.

The Long White Driveway

The last thing you see in the rearview is the long driveway. The long gray-white concrete driveway that climbs the hill steeply, so steeply it makes you dizzy to think of it. You are in the back seat of your mother’s Blue VW bug, you and your sister, the rough texture of the narrow vinyl bench seat pebbling against your child-legs. It is you and your sister in this together from now on; your mother has allied her future to your stepfather, though you don’t know it yet. She turns onto the black asphalt street where you played so many long summer night games with the slew of neighborhood kids you will never see again. She puts the car in first gear and out the side window you see the giant maple tree guardian of the front yard for the last time, the dirt path curving around it that leads down, down, down, from the front yard up on the small hill down to the street.

Sketch by Theresa Barker.

You are saying goodbye to your childhood home, even though you don’t know it yet.  The make-believe games behind beige living-room drapes, the corner that held the Christmas tree every year.  The kitchen table where your mom sewed dresses from print-cotton fabric for school.  That so-welcoming back yard with its high-flying swing set – you thought you could swing all the way up to the moon, didn’t you? – and behind, the hillside of blackberry tangles with tangy-sweet berries every August.  You will dream in your sleep about this house, dreams in which you float through every room with perfect recall, dreams from which you awake with a vague sadness.  The long driveway in the rearview mirror that lives only in your memory, for the rest of your life.


Theresa’s childhood home in 2017, photo in Zillow.

What do you remember most about your childhood home?  Did you have a favorite place to spend time?  What would you most like to say to your childhood self about that time of your life?


12 thoughts on “The Long White Driveway

  1. Drawing is a great way to open our minds and to sept free our muse. In the book I am writing with Raz Steel ‘s writing class I’ve sketched my characters and written their characters traits list. As I did I changed my sketch to match.

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  2. Its funny that we are reading this post today Theresa because just last night we were discussing our childhood homes and life as a child. There are so many memories and this post has stimulated us for more conversations to last another evening. What’s so funny at times is how our stories can contrast with our siblings. Both Audrey’s and my favorite places were climbing our trees in the yard and watching everyone running around below. There was a fun peace there. Freud would probably have a field day with this but that’s okay.

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    1. Oh! Climbing trees – I was just thinking myself about this wonderful tree in my grandma’s back yard in northern Arizona, a tree that was a perfect climbing tree. One summer staying there I liked to take a book up with me and read, perched in the branches. I remember lovely views looking out over the edge of the mesa on which her little house sat. What a breathtaking view across the striated rock near Glen Canyon. You could see forever!

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  3. Thank you for sharing your memories Theresa. I was fortunate that I didn’t move from the home that I grew up in until I was an adult. It was still sad but in such a different way. I was excited to start my grown up life. I do remember childhood sadness though. Those times when big and small changes happen in your life that you have absolutely no control over, and most times not a complete understanding of what’s even happening.
    I recently learned that the house I grew up in was for sale so I checked out the listing online. It was such a mixed bag of emotions to view the pictures of the house and the changes that were made to it. Like where is the 1970’s wood paneling in the living room?? 😀


  4. Well hello T – I am getting caught back up on some of the blogs I like to visit and of course had to drop by – and what a great post to start off with!
    First – I agree with other commenters in many ways! I was lost in the descriptions in a good way and felt the exit.
    I was glad u prepped us for content and that it might be sad – and I guess it was – but in my mind I was expecting a different sad.
    Maybe just semantics –
    Or maybe I’m used to folks sharing trauma – lol
    So I can see how it was a bit of a down or sad tone – but it was not that sad at all!
    Second – I enjoyed hearing about your writing activity – so thx for sharing the idea – this will likely be a good resource for people who can’t take classes – so extra nice to share –
    In a history class we once had to draw a map (not diagram) of our “city and our childhood home” and the professor helped us see some of our life perspective thru our depictions – for example – some people drew their city with only their street – downtown – and the home – others drew the entire state in the back and then had family houses dotted – others drew detaols that just showed their personality – It was not for a writing exercise – but it sure showed us about diversity and changing in perspectives – hm


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