Friday, January 09, 2009

when i was 12

this past summer while on vacation, the television remained off and in my moments of quiet, i read a book. and then another book. and then i began another... that third book was the Stephen King novella Different Seasons. the third of four short stories (titled 'The Body') in that novella was the longest of the stories.

vacation came and went before i finished it and i didn't pick it back up until the last month of the year. i finished 'The Body' before Christmas and couldn't wait to watch the film variation of the story, titled Stand By Me, to see how it compared.

Now in my younger years I had seen Stand By Me repeatedly... although it was the tv version in which all of the swear words and whatnot were replaced or removed. So i knew the story. Frankly, that is what made 'The Body' all the more enjoyable. As i read it, i was hearing the narration of Richard Dreyfuss and i was picturing the boys from the movie in my mind's eye. (The same was true when i read 'Rita Heyworth and the Shawshank Redemption'... i was hearing the narration of Morgan Freeman and picturing Tim Robbins... and when i recently finished the Autobiography of Johnny Cash, i was sad to put it down, because i knew the voice of Johnny Cash would disappear with it).

Without saying too much, Stand By Me or The Body is a really a story about 4 11 or 12 year old boys as they venture out to find the missing dead body of a peer who had tragically been hit by a train. it's less about the body and more the quest... even more about the life and times and important things of a 12 year old's childhood... many conversations about which super hero is best, ragging on one's mom and a plethora of one-up-man ship.

it's raw and real... the book more than the movie... but it's about the hopes and fears and weights placed upon the shoulders of young men who aren't really men at all. not yet anyway.

i connect with that story, as do many grown men like me. why? we connect with it because we were all once 12 years old. and we are sad that we can not go back... never go back to that age of innocence and discovery.

there was a quote from the story... i can hear Dreyfuss narrating it now: "I never had friends later on in life like i did when i was 12. God, does anyone?"

i remember my friends back then. i go back often... in my mind, that is. i am taken back to that small town in mid-Ohio, were i grew up. i think of the many adventures i once shared with them: Billy and Donnie, David and Mikey, Patrick and Bobby... and the assortment of other characters with whom my path once crossed. We'd ride bikes, walk the tracks, play war, camp out, build forts and club houses (we must have had 3 or 4 different ones over the years), head up to the Rainbow 7 for some ice cream and a game of Donkey Kong, climb trees and talk about girls or music or what was happening on the latest episode of The A-Team... we had full lives.

One of us is now gone. He drowned in the Whetstone Creek a few years after I moved away. I've lost contact with pretty much all of those guys now.

I've been back to that small town a hand full of times over the last 20+ years. In fact, i took my new bride there soon after we were married... wanted to show here where i grew up and tell her all about the things we did. We pulled into town and everything looked different.

you can never go back. i learned that one then and there. but my mind has not forgotten. so much happened and it seemed so important then.

maybe it still is.

to be 12 again... who wouldn't want to go back?

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