The Cooper Constant: Childhood Love

This entry is part 2 of 3 in the series Art & Life
The Wonder Years - Kevin and Winnie

Every now and then a show comes along at just the right time and matches almost perfectly what you’re going through. The Wonder Years was one of those shows for me.

Sure, I was a little older than Kevin Arnold when the show started in 1988, but the memories of starting middles school were still fresh and the weekly trials and tribulations rang true for me. Even though the show was set more than a decade before I was born, it (along with some of the actual older shows I grew up on) reminded me that some things remain constant. Shared experiences that transcend generations.

The details may change, but the heart of the matter remains the same.

And, boy, did The Wonder Years deal with a lot of heart.

One of the key threads that ran through it was Kevin’s relationship with Winnie Cooper, literally the girl next door.

Through the course of the series, as Kevin and Winnie grow, we see them explore those first romantic feelings–awkwardly making their way through their first kiss with one another, dealing with family issues, having knock down drag out fights, dating other people, moving away… the whole gamut of things that each and every one of us deals with at one point or another.

A lot of things on the show were played for a laugh (which is kind of true to life in its own way), but more often than not things had an underlying thread of seriousness. That mix, as well as the obvious talent of the cast and crew, made The Wonder Years a show that resonated across generations.

Kevin and Winnie were best friends. Again and again, we’d be rooting for them to get together because it seemed like it was just meant to be. And again and again, something would come up that would prevent it from happening. They grew as individuals–individuals who often relied on one another for support, but they were each very much their own person.

After six years, in the season finale, we learn what happened to them. They never did get together. They each went out into the world and carved out their own lives. Marrying. Having children. Following their dreams.

But through it all, they were still in touch. They were still close.

They maintained that pure Love that we can see best when we are youngest. A connection that runs deep and true, unencumbered by social or biological pressures. They’d worked through all that and achieved a togetherness that, on the surface, looked as bland as habit but, in reality, ran deeper than anything else.

They were a constant in one another’s lives. It wasn’t always perfect. It wasn’t always easy. But in the end, they could always rely on one another.

Soul mates, for lack of a better term.

I spent a lot of time wishing for my own Winnie Cooper. It wasn’t until I was much older than Kevin that I realized just how possible it was–and that all it really required getting out of my own way.

In order to have a person like that in your life–your own Cooper Constant–you have to be willing to be a person like that. Sure, you can experiment with the romance, but don’t let that get in the way of the friendship–of the Love–that really matters.

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  • janis

    Strangely I had a dream last night about my Kevin Arnold. Alas, for whatever reason, he hasn’t spoken to me since I left for college and started dating other people. It looks like he may be married now… I have no idea. I’d like to be happy for him (I AM happy for him) except that I’ve been shut out so completely. 🙁 I think this lack of closure may be one of the reasons I’ve always been relatively unstable in relationships, and keep looking, keep an eye out for something better… nothing quite matches the idealism of an 8-18 love that lacks closure…

  • janis

    Strangely I had a dream last night about my Kevin Arnold. Alas, for whatever reason, he hasn’t spoken to me since I left for college and started dating other people. It looks like he may be married now… I have no idea. I’d like to be happy for him (I AM happy for him) except that I’ve been shut out so completely. 🙁 I think this lack of closure may be one of the reasons I’ve always been relatively unstable in relationships, and keep looking, keep an eye out for something better… nothing quite matches the idealism of an 8-18 love that lacks closure…

  • Really sweet post – just enjoyed reading it. Yes, friendship first — wanting what’s best for the other person because above all, you care about their well-being.

  • Really sweet post – just enjoyed reading it. Yes, friendship first — wanting what’s best for the other person because above all, you care about their well-being.

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