I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was twelve. Jesus, does anyone? – Gordie in Stand By Me
If you’ve been around Bud’s Blog for a while (even since last Friday), you’ve probably read that quote before. It is the final line of one of my favorite films, Stand By Me, the story of four junior high friends who set off to find the body of a missing boy. Gordie is the smart one who writes stories when he’s not roaming around the woods with nerdy Vern, crazy Teddy and best friend, Chris Chambers, whose outcast family makes Chris himself an outcast. At the end of the film, Gordie is an adult, writing of that summer on his computer and those words are how he ends the story. So, what brings me back to Gordie’s question?
Looking through the cabinets in the garage for an extension cord for our Christmas tree a few nights ago, I found a missing album of photos retrieved from my Dad’s house when he moved to assisted living. On the second page of the album was a very faded newspaper article showing me at eight years old with my first best friend, Roy Winchester. That summer, we’d made a traveling lemonade stand in a wagon and raised $16 for the Fresh Air Fund, a local charity that sent kids to day camp. That was a lot of money for two kids to raise back then, so the New Haven Register came out to take our picture. Just as in Stand By Me, getting your picture in the paper was a very big deal. Looking at that faded photo of Roy and I from the summer of 1952, I was struck its similarity to one of Gordie and Chris from the film.
The next year, Roy went off to live in Germany with his parents and we moved from the dilapidated apartments on the Boulevard in New Haven to our own home in the woods of East Haven. I never heard from or saw Roy again. I’ve frequently said the friends I have in my sixties are the best friends of my life and yet … looking at that picture, Roy’s arm on my shoulder and a smile on my face, I know I had something at eight that I’ve never had again, a very first very best friend. So, in a way, old Gordo was right. Are you out there Roy? Do remember Buddy from the Boulevard?