Monday, October 5, 2009

Cheers to "The Wonder Years"

Nineteen-sixty-eight...I was twelve years old...I grew up in the suburbs. I guess most people think of the suburb as a place with all the disadvantages of the city, and none of the advantages of the country. And vice versa. But, in a way, those really were the wonder years for us there in the suburbs. It was kind of a golden age for kids.


Things never turn out exactly the way you planned. I know they didn't with me. Still, like my father used to say, 'Traffic's traffic, you go where life takes you' and growing up happens in a heartbeat. One day you're in diapers, the next you're gone, but the memories of childhood stay with you for the long haul. I remember a time a place, a particular fourth of July, the things that happened in that decade of war and change. I remember a house like a lot of houses, a yard like a lot of yards, on a street like a lot of other streets. I remember how hard it was growing up among people and places I loved. Most of all, I remember how hard it was to leave. And the thing is, after all these years I still look back in wonder.





Every American family has its own unique blend of personalities, my family was no exception. Within our four suburban walls we ranged the full spectrum of types. From the flamboyant, to the demure. From the repellant, to the ideal. Somehow, we managed to fit together in a kind of fragile alliance. One for all, and all for one. With one exception: Buster - the family dog.



In junior high school image is everything. A dance with masks. A fight to fit in. Maybe it's a struggle that lasts a lifetime. For most of us, anyway.



All our young lives we search for someone to love. Someone who makes us complete. We choose partners and change partners. We dance to a song of heartbreak and hope... all the while wondering if somewhere, somehow, there's someone perfect... who might be searching for us.



The transition from summer to fall is a tricky one. Like astronauts returning from space. We had to re-enter the atmosphere of school carefully, so the sudden change in pressure wouldn't kill us.

When you're a little kid you're a bit of everything; Scientist, Philosopher, Artist. Sometimes it seems like growing up is giving these things up one at a time.


Once upon a time there was a girl I knew, who lived across the street. Brown hair, brown eyes. When she smiled, I smiled. When she cried, I cried. Every single thing that ever happened to me that mattered, in some way had to do with her. That day Winnie and I promised each other that no matter what, that we'd always be together. It was a promise full of passion and truth and wisdom. It was the kind of promise that can only come from the hearts of the very young.

Karen: I hate to pop your bubble little one, but mom and dad are not the sun and the moon. They are people like you and me.
Narrator: Wrongo, they were mom and dad.


If there’s one thing every kid needs growing up, it’s a best friend. Someone you trust. Someone who trusts you. Someone you measure yourself against. You go through everything together. Important things. Stupid things. Things that matter. Things that don’t.


They say men are children. But sometimes children are men. Maybe that’s where the confusion lies. All I knew was, that night the world seemed suddenly very big. And I felt very small.


It was the first kiss for both of us. We never really talked about it afterward, but I think about the events of that day again and again, and somehow I’m sure that Winnie does too. Whenever some blowhard starts talking about the anonymity of the suburbs, or the mindlessness of the TV generation. Because we know that inside each one of those identical boxes, with its Dodge parked out front, and its white bread on the table, and its TV set glowing blue in the fallen dusk, there were people with stories. There were families bound together with the pain and the struggle of love. There were moments that made us cry with laughter. And there were moments, like that one, of sorrow and wonder.



Oh, yeah...Love. Once upon a time, it was...simple. If you liked somebody, you let 'em know. And if you didn't, you let 'em know. One way or another, you knew where you stood. But as you get older, communication gets more...complicated.

And I guess that's when I finally understood. I'd been part of Winnie's past, a past she wanted to forget. And now... there was nothing to do... but go. Only I didn't. I couldn't. There are things in a life that matter, things in a past which can't be denied. Winnie Cooper was part of me, and I was part of her. And no matter what, for as long as we lived, I knew I could never let her go.


Change is never easy. You fight to hold on. You fight to let go.


Love makes you do funny things. It makes you proud. It makes you sorry. That night we talked. About life. About our times together. Maybe we weren't the same two kids we had once been. But some things never change. Some things last. And even though I didn't know what was going to happen to us, or where we were going. I just knew I couldn't let her out of my life.

Growing up is never easy. You hold on to things that were. You wonder what's to come. But that night, I think we knew it was time to let go of what had been, and look ahead to what would be. Other days. New days. Days to come. The thing is, we didn't have to hate each other for getting older. We just had to forgive ourselves... for growing up.

Some people pass through your life and you never think about them again. Some you think about and wonder what ever happened to them. Some you wonder if they ever wonder what happened to you. And then there are some you wish you never had to think about again. But you do.

Teachers never die. They live in your memory forever. They were there when you arrived, they were there when you left. Like fixtures. Once in a while they taught you something. But not that often. And, you never really knew them, any more than they knew you. Still, for awhile, you believed in them. And, if you were lucky, maybe there was one who believed in you.

That night of my sister's 18th birthday, a lot of things happened. Maybe more than she knew. Because that night, when my father let Karen go out, he let Karen go. Maybe that's how it had to be. Children leave. And parents stay behind. Still, some things are deeper than time and distance, and your father will always be your father. And he will always leave a light on for you.

I wanted to stay there, in that night... more than anything I wanted before. But I knew I couldn't. I was fifteen. I slept under a roof my father owned, in a bed my father bought. Nothing was mine, except my heart, and my fears. And my growing knowledge that not every road was going to lead home anymore.

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