Election day! Election day! Oh, what a joyous day. Not just for democracy, but for the fact that, being a public school employee, we usually get this day off in May and November.
Not having to get up at the butt crack of dawn today, I relaxed a little longer in front of the tube last night. And lo and behold, I caught one of my favorite movies while channel surfing: Stand By Me.
I forget about that little movie when people ask me to list my favorites. It's not got the cultural relevance of a Pulp Fiction, or the thrills and intelligence of a Silence of the Lambs, or the wow factor of a Lord of the Rings. But it's got heart, and it's one of those movies that moves me every time I see it.
It's a great story. Before I ever saw the movie, I read the Stephen King novella. I remember seeing the ads for the film and knowing I didn't really have the money and means to get to the theater, but I could talk my mom into buying me the paperback version of Different Seasons I saw in a grocery store (you need to read this book of four novellas; not only did "The Body" inspire Stand By Me, but there's another little story called "Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption" that was made into another fantastic movie you may have heard of.) I devoured "The Body" over the course of a few summer nights. I passed it on to best friend DD. And then I waited for the movie to come out on video.
If memory serves, DD either saw it in the theater or got it on video before I did, because she quoted it. A lot. Especially Cory Feldman's lines. I finally did get to see it, and just like I had at the end of "The Body", I cried. What a beautiful ending:
I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was twelve. Jesus, does anyone?
Being close to that age at the time, and hanging out in a group of four myself, I completely got it. That's something the four of us would have done. We talked like that (when the parents weren't around). We had moments of juvenile delinquency like that. We tried to fake-drown each other in deep water like that (we just didn't have to deal with leeches.) We gave each other hell, but I think we would have stared down the barrel of a gun for each other, too. Deep down, we cared about the other three. That was us.
We each identified with one of the characters and we called each other by those names for a while. I was the Gordie. I bore an uncanny resemblance to Wil Wheaton at that age. Last night when I saw his Gordon LaChance again, skinny and narrow, arms and legs akimbo as he ran across the dump to escape Chopper, I had to laugh. I could have been his sister. Except that I grew to have a crush on him that lasted through the whole Star Trek: Next Generation thing.
It wasn't just the physical resemblance; at that age, I talked about wanting to be a writer, and I was probably the most serious and nerdy and cautious of our little gang. I haven't changed much.
I loved the movie so much that I bought the soundtrack with some saved birthday money (on cassette tape, of course) and I wore that thing out. When my mom bought a car that had a tape player in it, I brought that tape and listened to it on road trips. She was surprised that I liked "her" music so much. I still do. There's just something about "Lollipop."
When I saw Stand By Me as a kid, the death of the adult Chris Chambers (played by River Phoenix, whose own untimely death as a young adult seems more tragic when you watch the movie now) broke my heart. As a young teen, I could barely think about something bad happening to anyone in my little group of friends who I just knew I would be close to and friends with for life. Last night, I was more saddened by the idea that friends drift apart. That grown-up Gordie hadn't talked to Chris in ten years before he died, and that Vern and Teddy had just become another face in the halls. I'm a grown-up "Gordie" now, and I miss some of the wonderful friends who have made their way into and out of my life over the years. You think some of these people are going to be your best friends forever, but then adult life has this way of taking you down different paths. We get busy, we get wrapped up in our own children, we lose touch. And then sometimes you hear about something horrible happening to one of these people who once were the lead players in the dramas of our childhood, and you wonder what happened. It's heart-breaking, really, that someone who was the center of your world as a child, someone you used to see everyday, who shared your darkest secrets, could permanently move out of your life and the only blip on your radar would be an obituary in the newspaper.
As a mom, I also found myself last night looking forward to the kind of friends Ainsley will have. I hope they are as good as my 12-year-old friends were. I hope they make her laugh, and accompany her on her own arduous journeys, and watch out for her, and pack a comb ("What the hell do you need a comb for? You don't have any hair!") I hope at least one of them will stick by her into her adulthood and not just fade into the faces in the hall. I hope they stand beside her as she stands up to the "cheap dime-store hood[s]" she undoubtedly will battle in adolescence.
I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was twelve. I hope Ainsley will be so lucky.