Junior High

Last night my husband was channel surfing when he stopped and said,"name that movie." I knew immediately, when I saw the shapes of four twelve-year-old boys, one of whom was River Pheonix. I said,"Stand By Me," rather nonchalantly.

He quickly changed the channel saying, "I don't know why anyone would want to watch it on TV." I agreed, citing how the movie would last twice as long. And he said, "No. I meant because it's the edited version and you get to hear things like 'fairy godmother' where the cuss words should be."

Later, John retired for the evening and I snatched the remote. I stumbled across the movie, which had only about 20 minutes left, and I just couldn't change the channel.

The movie came out in '86, but I saw it for the first time in high school, and it was the edited version. I'd known about the movie since the 7th grade though, thanks to my three best friends -- whose homes were not those of a Southern Baptist Preacher.

That year we were living in a small town similar to the one in the movie. My three best friends and I had a certain infatuation with the boys, I mean the movie. We even assigned each other the names of the four main characters. Now I knew I certainly wasn't Chris or Teddy, but I really wanted to be Gordy. Yet, like everything else in the 7th grade, wanting it was as close as I got.

My friend Jaime got Gordy and I was left with Vern. Of course we all identify with Gordy. We're supposed to, that's why the movie works.

Maybe my friends were right. Maybe I was most like Vern. I was totally uncool. In fact, I'm still not sure why they let me hang out with them. But the fact that none of them are reading this means that I will probably never know.

I didn't need to see the whole movie for the last 20 minutes to get me. I've got the whole movie inside me anyhow. But as it happens, the last 20 minutes contain the climax as well as the conclusion. The boys have just found the dead body and Gordy begins to cry about his brother dying and how he thinks his Dad hates him and he's no good. Chris puts his arm around him and Gordy starts wailing.

John came running in from the bedroom. "Oh my gosh I thought that was you," he said when he finally saw the tv screen. I laughed convincingly. No. I save that for when I know no one else can hear, I thought to myself.

The part that actually made me cry was the end where it shows just the computer screen as grown-up Gordy types in, "Although I hadn't seen him in over ten years, I know I'll miss him forever." I slowly realized that it's been over ten years since I've seen any of the stand-by-me-girls. In fact, I've completely lost touch with all of them.

I don't presume that anything I'm writing really adds to what's been said in the movie, but I can answer the final question. No. You never again have friends like the ones you had when you were twelve. The closest ones I've had since then are some I made in college. In many ways, those friends are closer. But they're not the same.

When I made friends in college, I was becoming myself. I had the confidence to choose the friends that I wanted. It makes sense that those friendships will be important for the rest of my life. But when I was twelve, I was losing myself. I hadn't the confidence to choose anything. I took what I was given. There's no reason I should have been such close friends with these girls. It just happened. We ended up on the same end of the playground and made the best of it. And it was the best.

Ultimately, I'm glad I became who I am today. But sometimes I wonder. Has there been another Teddy, or a Chris, maybe even a Gordy, that I've missed out on, simply because I'm more picky.

August 30, 2001

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