Rob Reiner’s iconic film, Stand By Me, was released twenty-five years ago, today.
It was only two months ago, I saw the film in its entirety for the first time.
I had seen portions of the film, heard countless references recounted by my peers, but it took a random Monday night in May to finally sit down and watch it. I think I was in the process of moving, and I conveniently suggested to my girlfriend that we should pop it in and procrastinate from the perils of packing.
The four main characters, Gordie, Chris, Teddy and Vern, were twelve year olds or tweens, most likely two years from beginning high school.
Many portions of my childhood memories lack specifics, I can generalize events and moments, but I lack the ability to speak with certainty on what actually transpired. However, when it comes to the summer before seventh grade, when I was twelve years old, it’s crystal clear.
Seventh grade marked the first year I entered public school. It came with dreaded public school fears like whether or not I would miss the bus, would I be able to memorize my locker combination, did seventh graders have to actually shower after physical education class, and did swirly-soliciting bullies stalk the hallways looking for the shortest kid in the class (that was me).
I distinctly remember the morning I walked out to the bus stop for my first day of seventh grade, off to a school absent the familiar faces I had gone to school with the previous seven years of my life.
Guess what happened?
I missed the bus.
In fact, my assigned bus stopped right in front of me, but I opted not to take it because its number didn’t match the bus number I was told to take. (Lesson # 1 of seventh grade: Don’t always trust the “experts,” particularly in matters of public transportation.)
After waiting 20 minutes, realizing bus #245 was never going to arrive, I walked home in tears. Terrified that all the fears I had rehearsed were going to become my reality.
I eventually got to school. Twenty-five minutes after the first bell had rung.
Looking back on it, arriving late erased the potential of having to stand around awkwardly for the first class to commence. Then again, the school year had 35 weeks and 4 days more to go. Bummer.
When it was time for lunch, I walked to the back of the cafeteria and pulled out my lunch. It was the first time in my schooling life I had to eat alone. I saw my classmates, who were basically strangers, catch up with the friends they hadn’t seen over the summer.
As an outsider, that’s the worst part about public school, the fact that many of my classmates had been schoolmates their entire life. There wasn’t necessarily an incentive to mingle with me, the new kid in the dorky outfit his mom picked out for him the night before.
It’s crazy to think that it’s been more than half a lifetime since I started seventh grade.
I’m not far from turning twenty-five, three months younger than Stand By Me.
At the movie’s close, the narrator played by Richard Dreyfuss, writes: “I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was twelve. Jesus, does anyone?”
Truthfully, I don’t recall sharing that bond with anyone when I was twelve. (Maybe it’s the only child in me that often found sanctuary in solitude.)
On the other hand, I vividly remember that awkward, nightmare first day of seventh grade.
Being twelve was scary, but I made it.