‘These will all be stories someday’

There have been some memories made at 1422 Stone Gate Drive. The Hayek family has lived at their estate for 14 years, playing host to a group of young boys for many nights. Now they’re moving on. To Winston-Salem to be exact. 1422 will be taken over by another family. Another set of lovable dogs. Another litter of kids.

But it won’t be the same.


It’s genuinely an impossible task to try and recap the days and nights we spent at the Hayek household. The late-night talks that lasted for hours. The laughs. Damn, the laughs. The Mountain Dew and Queso Dip from Don Ramon. The Dr. Hayek original chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast. We have had some good times. I’m lying — we’ve had the best times.

Times we’ll never forget. Times we’ll tell about — and surely embellish — for years to come. Times we’ll tell our kids about. We’ll recount the time Uncle Luke almost killed me in a wrestling match for a fantasy football draft pick. Or the time a game of Risk lasted for a dozen hours.


Three years ago, the Lord above sent down a snowstorm that would paralyze the South. The planning started days in advance, as soon as the forecasts came out.

Our senior year of high school was winding down, and we wanted to spend as much time together as we could. So the night before the snow came, a group of us came together at 1422. Eight of us, to be exact. The snow did its job and got us out of school for three straight days, three days that we spent in that home.

Our mom’s called and begged us to come home. We got it. Sorry, mom. Today, was our day. And tomorrow, too. Oh, and the next.


Hard at work.

We built a ramp. From scratch. Really. We waked into Lowes, bought the wood, came home and built a ramp. That night, as the snow began to fall over the quiet city, we drove to the golf course and hid our prized possession. It was stolen, of course.


The infamous ramp.


After the blizzard made landfall, the fun began. We made an igloo of sorts. Named it Fort Naples. Some girls attacked it the next day. Luke got watery-eyed and legend has it that Will almost killed someone in battle that day.

We played a game of Risk that lasted 14 hours. Tears were literally shed and there might have been some blood. Tyler sabotaged his chances of winning to help out Luke. Chaos ensued.

Ben walked a half-of-a-mile, covering snowy terrain, to pickup “The Notebook.” That night we popped pop corn and watched the chick-flick together. Ben cried like a baby.


Luke and I really enjoyed “The Notebook.”


The next morning we awoke to a clogged toilet. Charles produced one of the longest and most formidable turds in the history of mankind. An image I’ll never be able to shake. This is no joke — we tried to cut it in half to ease the tension on the pipes with a clothes hanger. Sorry, Mrs. Hayek.

We ran out of drinks and food, so we walked a mile or so to the Food Lion. Sam walked into the Food Lion with a sled full of snow balls while he had some deli ham in his other hand. The look on those employees faces.


You thought I was kidding, but I wasn’t. Here’s Sam in Food Lion. With snow balls.

We did life right, those days. Nobody spoke about how much it meant. But I promise you, we loved every minute.

Charles said it best when we were recounting on Camp Hayek the other day: “That was one hell of a week.”

I would be remiss if I just harped on those three days — however incredible they may have been.

There were plenty of other nights.

Not always all eight of us.

Sometimes just two. Often four.

We almost got kicked out of Walmart on multiple occasions as we played a game of Assassin that didn’t bode well with their management.

We made Smores. Played Balderdash. Played Family Feud, and laughed at how bad Elliott was. Played poker and tried to not take all of Ben’s money.

We snuck out and drove to McDonalds for french fries and sweet tea. Just so we could.

We played dozens of games of whiffleball in the Marion Elementary parking lot, one ending with a walkoff homerun and a visit from a police car.

We held games of Capture the Flag. We had our Senior Dinner there. We parked our cars there for all of our traveling. Hell, we lived there half the time.

We played until we couldn’t play anymore.

For 14 years, 1422 Stone Gate Drive was our home base. Our center of life, in many ways. Our refuge.




Post 6:00 a.m. donut run.


This wasn’t for you.

If you made it this far, I appreciate it. But this wasn’t for you.

Many of these memories were had-to-be-there moments. Many other memories we will never tell to anyone outside of the group.

But they mean the world to us. That house means the world to us.

The events its witnessed, I shutter to even think. I have and I know I will shed a tear. And I’m not one bit sorry. That house was a home. And it always will be. For me. For Sam. For Will. For Ben. For Charles. For Tyler. For Elliott. And, obviously, for Luke.

Boys, this is for you. This is for us.

For no matter where we go, or who owns that plot of land, we have each other.

And I think we’ll make it.






March 18

It’s been a year.

It’s been a handful of homemade ice cream churns on summer nights.

It’s been a dozen phone calls that start with “Look out now, Mr. David Ray” and end with “Alright, partner.”

It’s been a few letters to local officials who weren’t doing their job.

It’s been 365 walks around the block with a partner-in-crime named Sally.

It’s been numerous conversations about “what needs to be fixed around here.”

It’s been too many meals of barbecue sandwiches and sweet tea.

When you put it like that, it’s been an eternity.

Not a day goes by that my mind doesn’t float back to granddad. Sometimes it’s in the middle of the night and sometimes it’s just the smell of grass. What I’d do to see him again.


This morning, I sat in the front yard with my grandma, who was missing granddad a little extra today. She decided to throw on some work clothes and weed the garden, just like he would have. I know he smiled down on the two of us doing work he would have usually done. Even though the conversation steered from school to Braves baseball to my little sister growing up, it came back to A. Donald Allen.

We shared stories and memories and jokes and laughs.

“I miss him everyday,” she said. “It feels like more than a year sometimes and often a lot less.”

“Time is relative, I guess.”

It is.

I know that even though it might be decades of time here on earth–time is a relative thing.

And it won’t be long before I’m with you again, granddad.



On Sisters and Brothers

When you’re growing up with siblings, everything is a competition. Who can brush their teeth the fastest, who can jump off the couch the furthest, and who can get their goldfish from the county fair to stay alive the longest. There’s never a moment in the day where brothers and sisters aren’t trying to battle one another. Those moments in Harris Teeter when you see two brothers trying to push the same grocery cart or the sisters wrestling after a basketball game wrong in the backyard. Everything is a rapid paced race to the finish line. You’re stuck with these people, and you don’t quite know why. So you might as well be able to run to the mailbox faster than them.

Then, we grow up.

We slowly stop playing hockey with plastic golf clubs in mawmaw’s living room and partaking in a nightly brawl of wrestle-off-the-bed where the little sister always loses and someone ends up in tears. Now we sit at the kitchen table and help that little sister with her multiplication tables and the middle child sits through a pretend classroom lesson that she is teaching to her invisible students. Slowly, we’re becoming friends. We listen to each other’s favorite music and watch the same TV shows on Disney Channel. Sometimes you might even catch a big brother cheering for his sibling when their Pinewood Derby race car wins. We begin to tolerate one another, not quite ready to profess our love, just yet.

Then, we grow up.

There’s a sense of beauty in these sibling relationships now that we’re of age. You’re born into a family, with no ability to pick or choose who you’re stuck with. A little girl with red cheeks is now your sister, and she’s got a birthmark on her arm that you and your brother can’t stop worrying about. Suddenly the most important thing on your mind isn’t what toy from the kids corner granddad will buy you from Cracker Barrel after your pancake lunch, but instead making sure that little baby is fine. That’s your sister now, you better watch out for her. You grow up with them. Sure, you bicker and you argue, but one day it’ll all make sense. The sister finishes a cross country race in tears, and the brother wants nothing more to be there for her at the finish line. A boy scores a goal in his soccer match and when the game is over he’s got a missed call from his older brother in college. Good grades are met with high fives instead of punches to the stomach. Musical performances are met with admiration and flowers instead of giggles and ridicule. We appreciate the bond that we have, and we never want to let that go. We love before we fight. We hug before we punch. We laugh together, we cry together, and we share our joys together.

Boy, am I lucky.