We have a narrow driveway that leads to the parking area behind our apartment. I am so grateful for on-site parking in our building (Kenwood is notorious for it’s overcrowded parking situation) but I have a complicated relationship with this driveway: I once popped the tire on my sister’s little Nissan Sentra when I borrowed her car to go check out Fuller during a visit before we moved here. There is a metal fence-post that must be cleared, and in that instance I was not successful in maneuvering past it. Since living here ourselves, I have also slashed the tire on our Nissan Altima, grazing that same fence-post while backing out.
As I mentioned, we are now the owners of a minivan, and we park the van behind our apartment. Doug will back the van in when he is driving so that I can have the cleanest, easiest exit possible which is very thoughtful and sweet. But often enough, I am the one driving so it is parked facing in, thus requiring me to back out the next time we go somewhere.
Now, Doug has not been subtle in making comments about my driveway-maneuvering skills in front of the children, and there was honestly a stage where every time I would back out, there would be a steady commentary coming from the matching Britax carseats in the back row: “Don’t hit the trash cans!”; “Be careful Mommy!”; “Watch out for the fence!”
Mercy really took the cake one day when, after I had explained how AAA functioned (coming to fix your car or tow the car if it breaks) and given her my old card to carry earlier that day, she began shrieking desperately from the back seat as I started to back up: “Mommy, WAIT!!!! I forgot the AAA card!”
I realized, though, that since acquiring the van, I am actually much better at managing the driveway. I think there is something about knowing that there is just no margin for error that makes me more cautious, careful, attentive, etc. The time I took out the Altima tire, I was going way too fast and was being quite careless. I was in a hurry and drove like it. In the van, I know that hurry is simply not an option. Only careful, deliberate driving can get us through.
It has been a long time since I have bumped a trash can or come close to scratching the fence-post (that green line on the side of the van? oh yeah, that’s from Doug), and even now when I get in the Altima to run a quick evening errand, I find myself having to concentrate so much more, and I often come much closer to getting scratches or scrapes than I ever do in the larger vehicle.
One result of rooting our family here in this neighborhood, in this city, is that I find myself living much more carefully, intentionally, than perhaps I would if my environment were not as challenging. Our life feels a lot more like backing up a minivan than a little Nissan Sentra in terms of risk and difficulty, but I think that something happens that actually results in better handling. The ways that our faith is growing and maturing; the level of engagement we have with God and neighbor; the questions we bring to the scriptures and to the Body: as much as we do still struggle and fail, I am pleased with how I see us “driving”.
Maybe I’m pushing this analogy too far, but it made sense the other day as it took me three tries to get the Altima past that fence.