My eighth grade English teacher was Mr. J. T. McKay. Mr. McKay was tall and thin and helped me learn to love language; particularly poetry. He also taught me to play a backyard game called "washers," but that is another story for another day.
Sometimes, when he was feeling particularly jovial, Mr. McKay would teach us songs from the days of his youth. They must have made an impression on me because I still remember many of them and it has been a long time since I was in the eighth grade.
One of them had a verse, "Not a soul down on the corner. That's a pretty certain sign; those wedding bells are breaking up that old gang of mine."
Well, it ain't wedding bells but something is certainly breaking up that old gang of mine. My family's friends are disappearing in droves and, like the guy in Mr. McKay's song; I don't like it at all.
I was reminded just how devastating the recent exodus has become to our social circle last weekend. As I drove around the southern part of Rockdale County, taking care of a long list of errands on behalf of my lovely wife, Lisa, I passed home after home after home where close friends once resided and was reminded of the many good times spent in all of them.
Cookouts and parties and Saturday suppers - the normal occasions that friends in suburban America share.
I drove out Ga. 138, past Publix and toward Stockbridge, and went right past the Daileys' house. That would be Jackie and Byron Dailey. They don't live there anymore, but I still think of it as their house when I drive past it. Their son, Jeremy, and our son, Jackson, have been friends since - well, since forever.
They went to preschool, grade school, middle school and high school together. Now they live down the hall from one another at UGA. Jackson and Jeremy were in soccer and Cub Scouts together, as well as Sunday school and youth basketball and drama and, well, you get the picture. For 18 years, we and the Daileys worshipped and played together and planned birthday parties and class trips and prom outings - all the things friends do when their children are close.
I taught their daughter, Jordon, to eat too-salty popcorn for breakfast at the early morning RYSA outings we all used to know and love.
And now they are long gone, having migrated last year to that great Promised Land to the east - Oconee County. And I miss them.
Oh, I know they are only a phone call or e-mail away, and we see them from time to time when our kids' activities bring us to the Athens area, but just like another line from Mr. McKay's song: "Now and then, we meet again, but it just don't seem the same."
We never run into the Daileys in the grocery store or at school functions, and I miss that. I really do.
Later Saturday morning, I had to head down another Rockdale County road littered by "For Sale" and "Mortgage Foreclosure" signs and rode right past where the Gordons used to live. That would be Scott and Mary Anne Gordon - and Cal and Sarah and, of course, MawMaw - who is Mary Anne's mama.
Not only did we go to church and socialize with the Gordons, but Scott and I worked together - and knowing that he was just down the hall if I ever needed anything made my day brighter. I would pop into his office for a minute or two a dozen times a day. It made being at work more fun, and his very presence in our building made our school a better place - all of which is beside the point.
Like the Daileys, the Gordons moved to Oconee County, in search of a less-crowded environment; and let's face it - one with less crime and turmoil and fewer "For Sale" and "Foreclosure" signs.
Scott and Mary Anne Gordon made our community a better place to live and work and worship and raise children, just like Jackie and Byron Dailey did; just like Terry and Marvilyn Smith did; just like Tim and Sandy Lally did - and the list, like Sonny and Cher's beat, goes on and on and on and on.
And where do you suppose it will end? If it weren't for the depressed housing market, we might already know. I can't imagine what my neighborhood would look like if everyone who wanted to sell their houses finally found buyers. And the market can't stay down forever.
Big sigh here before the grand finale.
"It gives me a real sad feeling, just to hear those church bells chime. Those wedding bells are breaking up that old gang of mine."
Well, the wedding bells aren't a problem, but those moving vans sure are.
Darrell Huckaby is a local author and educator. He can be reached at dHuck08@bellsouth.net.