The following is the story on which my first book, Lines in the Gravel, is based. I am often asked by those who have not yet read the book what the title means. Wonder no longer.
Lines in the Gravel: The Title Story
The bus, Number 58 if my old memory serves me correctly, regularly picked up and dropped off the kids of Florence Elementary School. The children in the third house on the left of the then-unnamed road in Star, Mississippi, were right there at the end of their gravel driveway every morning, lined up and ready to board the bus. There were four of them, each separated by one year in age from the next.
To the outside eye, this may have seemed the most normal sight in the world. Just kids waiting on the bus. Just like all the other kids on Bus 58. But the world didn’t notice the lines in the gravel. . . .
Birth Order Battles
The four kids in the Ainsworth house argued regularly and profusely about the most important of topics: how to line up for the bus. The oldest, a son, felt it was part of his inherent blessing as the oldest to be first in all things. The youngest, also a son, was cheated by birth order of all things good; being awarded the front of the bus line would have simply been logical reparations for this injustice. The two girls in the middle in either of those instances were in the middle still; with both girls having been endowed with an innate and acute sense of fairness, any scenario that placed a boy at the front of the bus line was clearly out of bounds.
The escalating battles over the bus line called for an intervention . . . by Mom. When none of our four action plans was agreeable to any of the others, Mom presented a fifth plan: a rotation. A rotation?!? We could have never come with something so simple, yet so ingenious! (We were kids, after all.) We would each have a day in each place in the line — including the glorious day each week that each of us was first — and the Fridays would rotate. I don’t remember what we did about holidays, but the solution must have been at least somewhat amenable.
Order Restored by Lines in the Gravel
When the bus arrived each day, four lines had been kicked out in the gravel driveway, and order in society had been preserved for another day. Each of the four of us kids would go on to attain not only our high school diplomas but college degrees, as well. Who knows the destruction that our in-fighting may have caused but for those lines in the gravel that allowed us to focus on lesser things like getting an education and making a positive difference in society.
Today, when we look back at the lines in the gravel, we laugh and wonder how we could have argued about something so trivial. Perhaps because that was one of many more situations in the years to come that proved to each of us that the world did not revolve around any one of us. Today, “Lines in the Gravel” is just one of many often re-told childhood stories. From this family of six, there are many more from where that one came. As it turns out, there is at least a book’s worth of “Lines in the Gravel” type stories.
Your Lines in the Gravel
So what are your family’s “lines in the gravel” stories?
What are the stories that are told and re-told in your family? What stories need to be told and re-told for the lessons that they reinforce?
Join in the conversation…
[bluebox]Start reading Lines in the Gravel and recall your own best stories.