Friday, June 24, 2011
Stand by me
With a new-to-us DVD of Stand by Me, we made that our Friday night viewing. Neither my son nor I had seen it in at least eight years. With my recent thoughts about childhood and the friends thereof, when the title song began just before the end credits, I saw myself and Kathy at a campfire, singing it, with at least Ben E. King's phrasing if nothing even approaching his voice.
During the previously-mentioned correspondence about fellow classmates, I learned of Kathy's death. We had known each other through all our school years. Three specific memories hovered as the music played. One was my surprise (I can't say why) at her fondness for the song and the fact of our breaking away from whatever was going on at the Girl Scout campfire to immerse ourselves in it for a few minutes. Another was the revelation, made I don't remember how or when, that on the day of any birthday party to which she'd been invited, she would feign illness, stay home and get to keep the present for herself. The third was a party - either her birthday or a Christmas exchange for our troop - at which I'd given her barrettes. Her exclamation on opening the package was, "Barrettes! I hate barrettes."
Not being a 12-year-old boy in rural Oregon in 1959, I could appreciate the story as I watched but not relate the time as they experienced it to anything I knew. Suburban Southern California and parents who would have noticed if several of us had been unseen for more than 48 hours is not comparable coming-of-age material. There seemed no place at which to connect. Until the first distinctive beats of the song. Then the losses, the changes, ground gained only to slip away, came into familiar focus. Time finds a way to roll our stories into one. Tonight, I think I cried for us all.