Signs, signs, everywhere there’s signs. …

I don’t actively seek life’s little signs to validate that I am indeed in the right place at the right time, but when I do see them, I definitely take notice.

Mom’s been trying to ask me about a classic rock song for the longest time, but the artist and title have eluded her, so I’ve not been able to help. But, I called her to tell her a story yesterday — about the name of a street — and she said, “That’s the song I wanted!”

And, of course, I have said song in iTunes. And now, so can you: Brickyard Road.

First things first — I need to send out some love to one of the girls at work who lives by me and who knows that, some nights, the commute’s a wee bit on the stressful side. So she gave me this alternate route that, while it’s longer and involves two-lane roads, it totally bypasses I-270 and the Beltway. Whee! I tried it on Friday, and in the sign to end all signs, I drove past a HUGE yellow sign that marked “Brickyard Road.” Which, of course, is one of my FAVORITE songs.

It’s one of those songs that defines my youth. Sure, it’s about Johnny Van Zant remembering his brother Ronnie (of Lynyrd Skynyrd fame). And when I first heard it (circa 10th grade), I kind of knew that the people I held so dear would be lost to me as well. I wasn’t wrong. But the memories? Clear as day.

What I remember is it being a hot summer night in 1990 — I was 16 and with the supposed (OK, I was delusional) love of my young life as well as our two friends. We were dropping off our friend Harry, who lived down this mile-plus-long stone road. The car we were in was an old beater, and we figured it wouldn’t possibly make it. But, good kids though we were, we refused to let Harry walk home alone, so we made a pilgrimage out of it.

“Doesn’t seem that long ago
Three of us walkin’ down that road
Grey ’55 Chevy parked in the front yard
Little Melody tagged along
Those were the best days, now they’re gone.”

Beth and I were both in girly shoes, which we would eventually live to regret. But at the time, I don’t think we noticed. The trip was kind of like “Stand By Me” but without the leeches and the dead body. That we knew of, anyway. 😉

It was a still night. The path we walked was near a lake — we couldn’t see the water but we could kind of feel the dampness in the air. The thing about that night was that it was such a journey — the things we talked about, the poignance of our silences as we pondered the moonlight, the constellations, the shape of the trees, the simple mystery that could be found — nay, created — if we would only take notice of its potential.

I was always kind of scared to be around this crowd — I felt like they came from such higher stations in society, if you will, and I always felt like J’s parents regarded me like I wasn’t good enough for him. I mean, they enjoyed me and all, but one of the many things that girls learn throughout their lifetimes is that mothers are terrified what it will do to the family if/when you take on their family name. It’s so provincial, really, how girls are expected to “marry up” and boys find someone on their level or to bring someone up to their level. I don’t know — I don’t think they really cared about society, but if you think about any book you’ve read or movie you’ve seen, the antagonistic Society always wins or, at least, never suffers.

And the thing is, factor out money, and he and I were no different. Our class ranks were tied, or at least neck-in-neck, throughout high school. What made our relationship, as it were, work was that we were equal opponents. We never let the other person “win” — we fought fairly (and often). And when the fighting turned dirty, we were still able to outsmart the other’s strategies. We exhausted and energized each other, in our best days. I miss him for that. And that alone.

As for him, his parents really had nothing to worry about, with me. He didn’t end up marrying me. But I hear his boyfriend is wonderful. 😉

Anyway, while I admittedly hated my school years, I had a couple of moments like the night I just described, and I can see moments when my personality, my introspection, my perception developed significantly. The thing I took away from that night was to be present and in-the-moment. We were such a cerebral bunch, playing mental chess with each other and with ourselves. We’d already taken our SATs and knew which colleges we wanted to attend and what careers we wanted to pursue. We were old souls — walking midlife crises with curfews. But that night, we were traveling companions. And we finally realized — or, at least, I realized — that’s the sum of most of our relationships throughout life. And it’s not a bad way to look at it, especially when everybody’s been long gone and not a one of us are looking back.

“Momma and Daddy’s doin’ all right
I saw Melody last Saturday night
She’s all grown up, she’s such a pretty girl
Things just ain’t the same since you left our world.”

I don’t think any of us would have a thing to say to each other if we would meet today. Which would never happen, as we are all scattered along the East Coast (although I hear that Harry is in D.C. nowadays — not like we’d recognize each other after so many years, I’m sure). But instead of awkward moments wherein we’d reminisce about old times and then have nothing new to discuss, we can walk down that road in our minds and part ways at the end of it — alone but changed forever from it.

“I know I can’t bring back yesterday
But we’ll be all together again someday
Down on brickyard road.”

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