by Edward Reid II
One of the best days in my life was when I was “so innocent”. I was twelve years old and I remember how badly I wanted to see the movie “Stand by Me”. It was at that theater off 41 where Books-a-Million is now. This is in Bradenton, Florida, my hometown. My father took me on one of those long sunny Sunday afternoons that I dreaded because I had not finished my homework and school was the next day.
I remember it was a late afternoon film and I could see it because I was with an adult. It was rated R. We got popcorn and cokes and I was so drawn into the film and the 1950s. 1959 to be precise. The music, the clothes, the cars, and the culture. The film was all about trying to find the body of a dead kid, a kid the same age as the boys looking for him. The boys were a year or two older than me. It is about their journey and then the kids finally find the body and it’s not what they expect.
Then forwarding to the future when the lead, who was one of the boys and later becomes an attorney, sadly dies in a stabbing trying to help someone. It was quite emotional and gripping to me. It was also magical because it was just spending time with dad and knowing that he lived in those days.
He knew all about it because he was 17 in 1959.
Afterward, we went down to “GD Ritzy’s”, a fifties style burger joint, and ate cheeseburgers and cheese-fries. He told me all about growing up in the fifties and having beer parties and watching the “submarine races’ at the beach. He told me about some girlfriends probably my mother didn’t know about,
My dad also told me more about life after school when he went to Vietnam. That somehow corresponded with the film and death. He told me about his friends from school that were killed. One friend, an only child, his parents were harassed with phone calls with taunts saying they were glad their son was dead.
I think that war also defined much of my father and how he judged people and how he saw the world. It was very black and white and sometimes I disagreed with him, but I learned how to accept who he was because of what he went through. We don’t always know the trials people face and we should not always be quick to define them without empathizing with them.
Many people I see don’t understand this and harbor hatred for others, judging them quickly without knowing their backstories. I think this is something I learned by knowing my father and by having different opinions from his.
His stories were intriguing and meaningful to me. I was always captured in the moment. For some reason, I am blessed or cursed with a very vivid and detailed memory of some days in my childhood. They are bittersweet, but they can also be painful, especially now that I don’t have my father around.
Some days I wish I could just go back for a little while and listen to my dad’s stories. He had a way about telling them, maybe he embellished them a little, but he knew how to draw you in. He was a storyteller.
I now have his yearbook. I have a fascination with memorabilia like that, items that capture a period of time. A time for many when anything is possible. Looking at the faces, it is also somewhat sad knowing that most of these people are at the end of their lives or dead.
I can read what the other students wrote about my father and what a “swell” guy he was. What a bright future he would have and all of the fun they had together. He was in the “Future Teachers of America” and also an actor. I guess that was also something that my father passed onto me.
I am a storyteller like my dad and I try and capture the moment like he did. I do it by putting it into film. I know the impact that this can have. One impression, like the one from my childhood, could last a lifetime. Those days are gone, but they will never leave me because they are a part of who I am.
Maybe one day, when my daughter is twelve years old, we can watch “Stand by Me” and I can take her to Goldbergs here, one of my favorite diners. They have the best burgers in town (unless she’s a vegetarian because of my wife’s influence) and we can reflect on the film. I can tell her more about my father, who would have adored her, and tell her more about him and the day I saw “Stand by Me”.