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Back to Middle School: Judgment Day

Stand By me - All MoviesRecently, my older daughter (15) and I watched the 1986 coming of age classic, Stand By Me.  It was apropos as we were returning home from a trip to visit with her best friends from her “childhood.” Reunited on a far-flung trip to Kuala Lumpur her set of four best friends were together once more and saw another part of the world as a bonus.  Doesn’t happen often. (Won’t happen again.) These girls had spent countless hours together up until that tender the age 12 when two of them (twins) moved to the other side of the world. It was a shock to the system for Sophie.

Remarkable to me, in watching Stand By Me over 25 years later, was how the film captured the loyalty, trust and compassion among four boys, 12 going on 13. The movie centered on an adventure to find the dead body of a local teen, with the requisite night out to camp in the woods. Not quite sentimental, the movie was nuanced enough to portray the range of emotions and understanding children – yes, even boys –  can have of hardship, heartache, and a need to be tough in the face of life’s disappointments. These boys had each other to joke with, to scare, to challenge, and to offer a shoulder to cry on – and without judgment. Somehow you knew this was fleeting.

I was about 20 minutes behind Sophie in my viewing of the film, sitting shoulder to shoulder on the flight. My reactions trailed hers on cue: a laugh here, a startle there. The only difference was that by the end of the movie I had tears rolling down my face.

“Oh my god, Mom. It’s just a movie.”

I was still reflecting on the last line in the film, where the narrator punches out on his typewriter:

 “I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was twelve.”

“Jesus, does anyone?”

I turned to her and said: Tell me right now that when you were 12 you didn’t believe that your best friends were more important than anything. That they were the only ones you could count on and who understood you. And really, has it been the same since?

She just stared at me, as teens do, not willing to admit a truth.

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Girls Sleeping On Porch, NYAs inevitably happens, we just had the last week of summer. My younger daughter (13) and her group of friends stretched out the last days before 8th grade as long as it could possibly go.  So much for getting a good night sleep, being prepared to wake up early again, and being somewhat organized. She begged me, “Mom, this is the LAST time our gang will be together before school starts, pleeeeeeeeeaaaaassse.”

I thought of the four boys in Stand By Me: Chris, Gordy, Vern and Teddy. I gave in.

And what did these 13 year olds do?  They piled in a tent in one friend’s back yard.

I didn’t’ know this until she came home. She certainly had the dirty feet and mosquito bites to prove it. Maybe it is a primal need of kids of the brink of adulthood to cap it off with an adventure.

And let’s just say the first day of school was the antithesis of that last hurrah. In absolute tears was she – on that first morning of school – as Dad was calling her repeatedly to get in the car.  She ran past me, in a skirts and cute top, her long hair painstakingly straightened. I assured her everything was going to be just fine.  In a last turn before stepping out the door she lamented: “You just don’t understand, Mom. I don’t have ANYTHING nice to wear on the FIRST DAY!”

Oh I understand all right. It’s middle school and it’s judgment day.

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Join me for upcoming talks and tweens and teens.

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