the wonder years

I loved The Wonder Years when I was growing up.

I loved the older voice of Kevin that narrates the story of the younger version of his junior-high self because I love that his voice sounds like he is sharing the lessons, joys and sorrows of his late 1960’s youth with his children – explaining himself to them.

I remember watching The Wonder Years and hoping that one day I would be able to tell my children about my life.  And I don’t think I am alone – I think the need to share our story and pass it along is universal.  The idea that we would live our lives and no one would know who we were, who we became and who God created us to be, feels tragic.  And sometimes the memories are simple snapshots and moments.

Like lying in bed in the house I grew up in on a hot summer’s night, with the windows open and the breeze puffing the curtains in and out, like deep breaths, and the whole house fan whirring in the hallway.  We slept with all of our doors open and I would listen to hear my dad start snoring.  Every once in a while, a car would wander down our street, coming home from a late night at the office or a late night with friends.  Sometimes I could hear both a car engine and music wafting through the air, a rising crescendo that then faded as the car approached and passed our house.

I wonder what it would be like if I could step back in time and walk through a day in my childhood.  I suspect it would feel like a sick day and sick days always felt wrong, like I was diverging from an already drawn-out timeline and visiting an alternate universe.  Driving to the doctor’s office on a sick day, I would marvel that people lived all these varying realities being played out beyond the walls of the classroom.  People going to the grocery store, visiting the library, going to the hair salon, and stopping at the post office.   Even now, I feel that way when I take time off of work – there is a feeling of being out of step with the universe and glimpsing an alternate reality.  I feel like a visitor in my own life.

Plus, remembering things from my childhood is sometimes like remembering a dream.  I can generally recall what it was like to walk through the front door of my house, but if you asked me to describe some of the specifics, that’s when things get fuzzy.  I remember the black slate floors.  I remember that we always had items sitting on the stairs, waiting to be carried up (which we never did and which Mom or Dad always did begrudgingly while saying, “You kids pass all of this stuff, and never bring it up with you!”).  But I don’t remember the wall color in the kitchen and when I try to remember, it gets blurry in my memory and I am not sure if I am remembering the right wallpaper.

But regardless of how shoddy my memory can be, I sometimes will transport myself back to the places of my childhood.  I try to adjust the angles to see things from my adult perspective and not from my smaller child memory.  I have to remind myself that the house I grew up in would probably feel smaller if I actually went back inside as an adult.   In my memory, I walk into the garage and I look around, trying to mentally feel out the space.  I walk through the garage door and into the house.  The powder room door is on the right, immediately followed by the door to the laundry room.  To my left is the door to the basement.  Directly in front of me is the family room.  I try to remember if the hutch was always on the wall next to the basement door or if it was moved there when mom got a dining room set.

I fight the urge to call Mom and ask her.  What is the use?  And who really cares?

A few steps further into the house and on the left, there were two sets of stairs going up to the other half of the first floor.  Just three steps.  Maybe four.  But I’m pretty sure just three.  The first set goes into the foyer and the second goes into the kitchen.

And in the kitchen, on a wall near the kitchen table, Mom hung a needle point piece.  It was a woman rocking a baby and the words stitched carefully next to the image read, “Cleaning and scrubbing can wait ’til tomorrow for babies grow up, we’ve learned to our sorrow.  So quiet down cobwebs, dust go to sleep, I’m rocking my baby and babies don’t keep.”  We memorized the words one day while eating lunch.  I think it was just my sister Cait and I.  And we sat there an practiced the words until they were burned into my memory.  I don’t even know the color of the wall that the piece was hung on, but the words will always be there.

Isn’t it interesting what you remember from your childhood?  And it was funny to see that same exact piece hanging on the wall in my husband’s parents’ home.

The Wonder Years was a family favorite show when I was growing up.  We would all gather around and watch the show together.  Mom would ask one of us to get her a really big glass of water, and we would hurry up the three stairs to the kitchen and fill up a big blue cup with water for her.  And Dad would have a banana and a glass of orange juice, and we would all sit around and watch Kevin Arnold grow up.  We would listen to his older, wiser self narrate his life and I would wonder about the person that I would become.

The finale of The Wonder Years was bittersweet and perfect.  The last narrative from older Kevin reveals that life did not go as anyone had planned and as he finishes, he says,

“Growing up happens in a heartbeat. One day you’re in diapers, the next day you’re gone. But the memories of childhood stay with you for the long haul. I remember a place, a town, a house, like a lot of houses. A yard like a lot of other yards. On a street like a lot of other streets. And the thing is, after all these years, I still look back…with wonder.”

4 thoughts on “the wonder years

  1. I came across your post by accident, having spotted the first lines on “marriagewithaltitude” blog, but I had to comment, as I absolutely loved The Wonder Years. In Poland it was on TV on Sunday or Saturday mornings and I remember that – as a child – I would come to watch it with my mum while my dad would bring us coffee, tea and breakfast to bed and we would all sit there under the duvet, watching, still in our pyjamas, having a lazy and lovely family time.
    I’d love to see it again, although it’d probably make me cry now, as – getting older (26 as of this year) – I’m becoming very sentimental about the past. And this series is something that very much reminds me of the lovely childhood I had. I hope that one day I will be able to show it to my kids, before they get completely sucked in by this crazy, crazy world we live in today.

    • Weronika – thank you so much for sharing your comments! Isn’t it funny how a simple little TV show has such an impact on our childhood memories? 🙂

  2. I have gray hair now and more years behind me than in front of me and I can still be taken back to my house on Pleasant Hill in an instant. I too can recall those hot summer days, laying in my bed listening to the sound of the train whistle and bells coming from a mile and a half away. The sound of fans humming in the hallway. The crickets chirping so loud that at times I thought I would go deaf. The McCaskey’s taking the trash out or the sound of Ray’s tires crunching the gravel in the drive as he would be coming home late from a date with Judy.

    I remeber walking home from the bustop wondering how different our street would look when all the trees got big. Coming in our garage door, I could hear the sound of my grandparents taking an afternoon snooze and the heavy smell of Pa’s White Owls and Boma’s Kent’s wafting from their room. Our home was always clean and picked up and I would start looking for my Mom as I made my way to my room. I loved my room and my house. Things were safe there and always predictable.

    The strongest memories I have are of my childhood. Perhaps it is because there were no distractions back then. My life was simple, only about myself. But whatever, the recollections of that period in my life are so wonderful and warm. I am so glad that I have them. I am glad that you have yours too. We all have a “Wonder Years” in our life!

  3. A huge amount of my childhood memories involve you and Caitlin. When I talk to other people about growing up, no one had as much fun as our little cul-de-sac gang did. Riding bikes endlessly around the cul-de-sac, SPUD, ghost in the graveyard, playing pioneers in Trisha’s backyard….we had so much fun!

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