'tis a work of art

Photo courtesy my mom

My mom has been battling Hampton’s public works department for quite some time. The pavement on her block is more than 40 years old and it began flooding when a drainage project deeper in the neighborhood blocked the drainage and the road sank a bit.

On top of that, there was a persistent puddle what is now known to be a leak in a water pipe (which probably contributed to the sagging road). I find the site of the leak to be interesting because it is about where a sewage pipe ruptured one winter 2000-2001. I didn’t know that morning, but my car wasn’t covered in frost. That was frozen poo water. When I headed to the parking lot after school, my car stank to high heaven.

The picture above is what I guess was a flash of creativity from my mom. In the puddle is the detritus from a rainstorm that halted the work my mom finally got on the road. The rest is what’s left of the pavement that was on our block when my family moved in 1972.

Apparently, someone inadvertently wiped our block off public works’ map, so it was missed in the 1990s streetscape project elsewhere in the neighborhood and almost got missed this time around had my mom not been persistent.

That’s what they told my mom. She’s still talking to the workers. You’re not pushing bulldozers down her road without telling her what’s going on today.

A part of me is finally glad to see that old road go, and I’m glad my mom’s hard work paid off. I lost track of how many times we had to dump gravel at the end of our driveway because there was no driveway apron and the front yard was washing away due to the malfunctioning ditch. There was uneven, cracked pavement that I was told was caused when an Army convoy came to pick my dad up when he was horrifically late for duty once. And then the stormwater. Sure, my hometown is sinking while sea level rises, but we’re far enough from a body of water that the road shouldn’t flood the way it has recently. We’re lucky that our house sits on the highest point on the block, and then is about 2½ feet off the ground on top of that. Our neighbor’s driveway is below grade and his truck constantly is threatened.

But that pavement is going away. That pavement that predates my birth. The stones and bitumen of my grandmother, my parents, Theresa and me, and on occasion, my niece and nephews.

As a kid, I loved when someone washed a car in our driveway. I would carve distributary channels in the gravel with sticks in hopes the water would obey my designs on its way to the ditch.

I loved how its rough surface sounded as my bicycle tires rolled across. It even had an unmistakable feeling in a car.

The ancient, faded grey asphalt nearly was too narrow for a two-lane road with occasional street parking. It was terrible and aggregating, especially after everyone else got the curb-and-gutter treatment, but it was ours.

It’s just a non-porous aggregate, but it’s also another piece of memory of the Hampton I grew up in being scraped up and hauled away.

But it’s not getting replaced with just any asphalt. That’s my mother’s asphalt. And if I see it repaved again, it’s because my mother got it back on the list.

And she sometimes wonders why I question public officials for a living.

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