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  • Joshua Ziefle

Killer Clowns at Midlife

I watched "It Chapter Two" last night. And then I got to thinking.


Based on the Stephen King novel, the film concludes the story of a group of children from Derry, Maine. 27 years before the events of the second film, they as children were forced to grapple with a malevolent entity that often took the form of a clown. Even if you haven't seen the film(s) or the earlier television adaptation, you can probably picture everything.


As I watched last night, what struck me was that the movie seems to be not so much about horror or killer-clown phobia, but a meditation about childhood, memory, and mid-life. 27 years out from their early adolescence and facing an undeniable adulthood, the central characters of the film returned to a home filled with memories they had not even previously recalled.


As I think about a group of middle-aged people suddenly called two-and-a-half decades into the past to re-engage their junior high selves, I suddenly began to do the same myself. I am 40 years old. Subtract 27 years from that and I'm back in 1993, a freshly minted teenager in rural southern New Jersey. As with so many of us, it was a transformative time. My heart was filled with so much. My horizons were limited...but growing. The patterns of childhood were enhanced and disrupted. New voices and new faces appeared in my nascent personal community--individuals who became vitally important in those delicate years. Some have stayed with me. The role of others has faded with time.


It was during this season of my life that everything was just beginning. I began to learn to fall in love. I came to be part of a Christian community. I explored faith. Directions and commitments emerged that echo even today. I did not know it at the time, but those were magic days.


And yet: as anyone who has been a 13-year old can tell you, these days are often only idyllic from a distance. Up close and in real-time, they could be a maelstrom. Not quite a "let's all band together to kill an evil clown trying to murder us" kind of storm, but chaotic nonetheless. If we dare dredge up the memories we have forgotten (or repressed) we could tell some tales.


As I watched the film last night, I saw the reunion of a group of friends who had previously come together in a very particular season in their lives. I watched them begin to remember the experiences of those earlier days. I observed how there was familiarity and difference in their interaction. I saw how, over the brief span of the film, they were gifted with the opportunity to step back into a different time. They were able to recall a piece of the tapestry that came to be their lives. It made me want to do the same.


It seems a strange thing to rhapsodize about their reunion in the context of this film. For any who have seen it, you know that their coming together was not without tragedy and cost. Not to mention to deep trauma each of them had to deal with. So please understand I draw some distinction between this and my own musings. Nevertheless, the opportunity afforded them was enviable. They were allotted time and space to inhabit their home once again. To spend time with those who had once been so important and reconnect and journey together once again, even for a brief season.


The social dynamics of reuniting with such people in our lives--many of whom have no doubt become strangers at this point--would be complex and not a little strange. But I think I would like to try it some time. I know that our teen years and the formative season of post-childhood are deeply fraught. I know too that there are some who have real pain and wounds from that time. But even in the midst of what for some might be great darkness, I suspect there were still flashes of light in the form of other people. Those we would like to see again. The ones we would like to talk to. Former friends we have barely recalled yet would like to thank. Individuals for whom we can thank God, even if we failed to do so at the time. People who, after spending time to really ponder it, we are thankful for now.


Call it a my mid-life crisis. Call it idealism for days gone by. Call it whatever you want. For me, I'll just say "thank you." Friends, I hope it takes far less that a Stephen King monster to bring us together again.


I'll end with a request. Take just a minute to think back to that summer between seventh and eighth grade. Remember those long nights filled with fervent waking dreams. Think of the names and faces of those almost-forgotten years. Be thankful. And maybe, just maybe: consider reopening the book of your life and making some reacquaintances.

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