Ronda Rich: The beauty of a long and winding gravel drive

Several years before Tink and I married, I built a house that, eventually, would become our home together. This French country cottage suits us very well other than closet space for Tink which has been modest and challenging.

We solved that by tossing or giving away the ugly shirts and keeping only the handsome ones. We also had an enormous, beautiful armoire built which is Tink’s great joy because it has top and bottom hanging racks, built-in drawers, shelves and a laundry basket that pulls out. He had protested mightily when I set out to do this, working with cabinet builder Allen Swafford, one of my favorite contractors. On the day the armoire was installed, Tink whistled and sang happily as he arranged his clothes.

Repeatedly, he called down the stairs, “I love this! Thank you, baby!”

There is something, though, on the ‘Rondarosa’ that will never be altered or changed. It will stay as it was from the beginning when a driveway was carved into the hard rock and stubborn red Georgia clay. We will always have a graveled drive.

Mama was still alive when I built this home. One day, she was surveying the gravel that continued for a very long way before connecting to concrete that leads into a turnaround space and the garage. The driveway is long so it was a lot of gravel.

“Ronda, I’m gonna pray that God blesses you with the money to put concrete down all the way to the road.” It wasn’t an indictment or judgment. It was just a mama wanting the best for her child and, in this particular incidence, that would mean no mud holes or dirty cars.

It hurt my feelings a bit. The kind of hurt that made me feel sad, not mad. I was so proud of that graveled road.

“Oh, Mama, I don’t want to pave it. I want that beauty and simplistic feel. It fits so well the way it is and I don’t want to ever change that.”

Mama shook her head in bewilderment and exasperation. “Well, that beats all I ever saw. I would think you’d want better than that.”

I was disappointed that Mama was disappointed, but I stuck by my decision and, after many years, I still love it. Nature has provided an embankment rich with rocks, some quite big, on one side, then the other side drops down and rolls across the pasture to the small river. There is mighty rock on that side, too. As we pass under a canopy of tree branches, we cross a gurgling stream that meanders toward the river. A large weeping willow and two maples give shade to that spot.

It is perhaps the crunch of the gravel that makes us feel most welcome, most at home when we return from wherever we have been. Without fail, I have never entered that drive that I haven’t appreciated the beauty of a land as gently touched as possible.

On mornings when I return from a run, I am normally transported back to my childhood, to an era when everyone in the country had graveled drives. In the late spring, blackberry bushes yield fruit, so I stop and pick my breakfast. By summer, the kudzu tries to sneak in and come fall, the orange and yellow leaves float down from the oaks and maples.

As is typical with most graveled drives, there is grass that runs up the center of the drive. Therein lies the true magic of this rustic road.

“It’s a funny thing,” Tink said one day, his voice taking on a sentimental tone. “As a kid growing up and on into my adult life, I always wanted to live in a house that had a graveled drive with grass growing up the middle. I always pictured myself living in a place like this.”

I wish I could tell Mama.

Ronda Rich is the best-selling author of “Mark My Words – A Memoir of Mama.” Visit www.rondarich.com to sign up for her free weekly newsletter. Her column publishes Tuesdays.

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