Twenty-five years ago, on a Friday night in October during the fall of 1986, I took my girlfriend (now my wife) to our first movie together, “Stand By Me.” a coming of age story based on the novella “The Body” by Stephen King. I wish I could have seen how simple it was back then with a world of infinite realities right there in front of us. I wish I could have taken the time to appreciate the days we had. I wish I could have slowed down time. But I couldn't.
“It happens sometimes. Friends come in and out of our lives, like busboys in a restaurant.”
Twenty-five years ago, on a Friday night in October during the fall of 1986, I took my girlfriend (now my wife) to our first movie together.
We were sophomores at the University of Notre Dame and were looking for something to do. We didn’t know anything about the show that was playing at the university auditorium that evening – other than it was going to get us out of the library and away from our textbooks for a night. And we were totally down with that.
The movie playing was “Stand By Me,” a coming of age story based on the novella “The Body” by Stephen King. And I liked it. So much so, in fact, that I went back the next night all by myself.
The movie captured me from the unforgettable opening line.
“I was 12 going on 13 the first time I saw a dead human being. It happened in the summer of 1959 - a long time ago. But only if you measure in terms of years.”
I saw the movie two more times during its week’s run at Notre Dame. And at the time, I’m not sure I could have explained my fascination (obsession) with the movie. But looking back today, 25 years later, it seems apparent. The story was wonderfully well-written. And the story was familiar.
The movie depicts a time in your life that feels incredibly complicated. But over time, you recognize that it’s really not. And, as they traveled the backwoods of Oregon to find the dead body of a kid named Ray Brower, the boys in this movie – Gordie and Chris and Vern and Teddy – carry the tremendous gift of being able to recognize that life will never again be like it is today … precisely at this moment. Pure and uncomplicated.
I’m sure time has a way of fortifying and glamorizing our fading memories. There were, of course, no searches for dead bodies in my childhood. But when I was their age, I wish I could have seen the present for what is was.
I wish I could have seen how simple it was back then with a world of infinite realities right there in front of us. I wish I could have taken the time to appreciate the days we had. I wish I could have slowed down time. And as we headed off in our separate directions and out into our own unconnected worlds that summer of our senior year, I wish I knew that the handshakes and the hugs we shared as we said our goodbyes would be a lot more permanent that I would have ever dreamed possible.
I wish I could have understood, like these young boys did, that it is the journey and not the destination that ultimately defines who you are and who you will become.
But I didn’t.
And now I wish I could have just one more day, just one single day, to share those hallways and classrooms and athletic fields with the friends of my youth.
The 25 years have carried a full load of change. Our children have moved from diapers to dances in the blink of an eye. And while it is true that friends may come in and out of your life, there are always the select few who will forever have a seat reserved at your head table.
Twenty-five years. It’s a long time, man. But perhaps just enough time to finally realize the answer to the greatest closing line in movie history:
“I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was 12. Jesus, does anyone?”
No. No they don’t.
John Reilly is a graduate of Stonehill College and Notre Dame. He lives in Sharon, Mass., with his wife, daughter and son. You can follow him on Twitter at @jwreilly.