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I Won’t Shed A Tear

standbyme
If you’re lucky enough to watch a classic movie when you’re the same age as some of the protagonists, it can be a life-affirming moment. There are three examples of this for me: ‘Adventures in Babysitting,’ ‘The Goonies,’ and ‘Stand Be Me.’ The latter is probably the most moving of the three (even if ‘Goonies’ will always be my favorite.) I was reminded of its greatness when Tracy Chapman performed this wondrously stripped-down version of the Ben E. King masterpiece:

When the night has come
And the land is dark
And the moon is the only light we’ll see
No, I won’t be afraid
Oh, I won’t be afraid
Just as long as you stand, stand by me
So darling, darling
Stand by me, oh stand by me
Oh stand, stand by me
Stand by me
I think it happened around this very time of the year. My brother and I had spent the day and the early part of the evening playing an epic game of hide-and-seek at a friend’s house. Exhausted but not sated from that adventure, we popped in a video and hunkered down into a fluffy bed to watch. ‘Stand By Me’ began, and Rob Reiner’s take on Stephen King’s coming of age novella instantly entranced us. Back then, we were lucky enough not to have been touched by the themes of loss that now seem so apparent to me. We only cared about the adventure – the freedom of being away from your parents, your hometown, your school, and all the social boundaries that came with them. We courted and craved similar excitement and similar freedoms. It was easy to long for such thrills when you had a more or less safe childhood.
If the sky, that we look upon
Should tumble and fall
And the mountain should crumble to the sea
I won’t cry, I won’t cry
No, I won’t shed a tear
Just as long as you stand, stand by me
And darling, darling
Stand by me, oh stand by me
Oh stand now, stand by me
Stand by me
The movie was also a subtly-complex treatise on boyhood friendships – the ones that lasted, and the ones that didn’t – and always the importance of those shared moments. To this day, I remember that night with a friend I’ve long since lost touch with, and a brother I sometimes wonder if I ever knew. I mourn and celebrate a childhood that was ordinary in so many ways, average in ways I often wish it wasn’t, and extraordinary at just a few sacred moments – and that night was one of them.
The television glowed in the room, the only light as midnight approached. My brother and our friend had drifted off to sleep. We’d kept up some small-talk and chatter during the start, but it had petered out as we more closely followed the boys’ journey along the train tracks. Eventually, their measured breathing and lack of response to a quiet question indicated they were both asleep. I watched the scene where Gordie, awake first, watches a deer walk by. He was alone, and he kept the moment to himself.

It didn’t move me enough to cry then, as it sometimes does now. I was too young to feel that kind of pain. For that I remain grateful. As for my boyhood friendships, none has lasted (except for one girl). Perhaps because of that, I hold my close friends a little closer.
So darling, darling
Stand by me, oh stand by me
Oh stand now, stand by me, stand by me
Whenever you’re in trouble won’t you stand by me
Oh stand by me, oh won’t you stand now, stand
Stand by me
Stand by me

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