Lake Wenatchee…For one week that summer of 1971, my family and Paul Pfeiffer’s rented side-by-side cabins along its placid shores.
And that’s how the beginning of the episode 70 titled “The Lake” of the t.v. series, “The Wonder Years” begins. To me, this episode perfectly captures the moment and that intense feeling of a summer crush that can quickly escalate into you having to spend every second of time together because you know its fleeting. As you watch Kevin Arnold struggle with this, you instantly remember what it felt like to be captivated by someone over your summer break.
Of course, there are countless examples of summer time loving but this Wonder Years’ episode is one of my favorites because of its simplicity in establishing what it feels like as a teenager. That first burst of emotion for someone that you’re willing to leave your friend behind or even disobey your parents. All to keep that magical moment alive…even if its just a little while longer
Is there anything more tormenting to know that there is an end point to when you can hang out together? To know that there is a finite amount of time for you to hold hands, to feel the electricity and heat off of each other’s skin. And so the countdown begins and you fight it – oh you fight it. In the hopes that there might be some remedy – a miracle of sorts that will allow this moment to stretch into infinity uninterrupted. Maybe, just maybe, the sun will not set earlier than eight o’clock and the air will not become frigid with the change of the season. And your love will not have to come to an end.
To me, Cara is the perfect example of a summer love for Kevin.
That night I felt a million miles from everything I’d known before.
Where Winnie Cooper is dark, Cara is light. Where Winnie sometimes doesn’t know what she wants from Kevin, Cara knows that she is sharing something important with him. Where Winnie represents the familiar, Cara is fresh and new. She smokes cigarettes, rides around in the back of a Ford pick-up truck. She’s inherently cool without having to even try. Wielding her power, she has the ability to make Kevin leave his family to spend all his free time with her.
I could feel myself missing her… Even while I was with her.
With her being a local and Kevin a visitor to the Lake, we all know that their time together is limited. That they’re just a bunch of teenagers living under parental guidelines and unable to make any real life decisions. So, they horde this time and place it into a container of emotion, rationing out the moments in an attempt to keep the inevitable at bay.
Trouble, I was running out of nights – and fast.
On the Arnolds’ last night on vacation, Jack (Kevin’s father) wants them all to spend time together and Kevin knows that he needs to see Cara to tell her that it’s his last night and to day goodbye. There’s a stand-off and Kevin leaves knowing that he’ll be in some sort of trouble but that he can’t not go. He can’t not see her one last time. To hold her in his arms.
The ending is as perfect in its realness as it can be. There is absolutely nothing to be done – they will have to separate and go back to their individual lives. Though, they will never be the same. So they sit in silence and share their last moments.
Here is a playlist of the music from the episode, in the order it was played. It’s kind of a audio representation of Kevin & Cara – from the moment he first sees her to their last night together. Enjoy!
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