Best Quotes from The Wonder Years

alex atkins bookshelf quotations“Once upon a time there was a girl I knew that lived across the street. Brown hair, brown eyes. When she smiled, I smiled. Every single thing that happened to me that mattered, in some way, had to do with her. That day we promised each other that we’d always be together. It was the kind of promise that could only come from the hearts of the very young.” Boy meets girls; boy learns about himself, friendship, love, life, and loss– that was the premise of the brilliant award-winning show, The Wonder Years (1988-1993). The narrative, that spanned six seasons, was told in hindsight by Kevin Arnold as an adult, looking back on his adolescence, growing up in the tumultuous 1960s in suburban America. With each heartfelt, insightful, and witty episode, the writers took us on a nostalgic journey back to our teenage years, the wonder years. Oh to be young again — to experience the innocence, the naiveté, the joyfulness, the eagerness, and that endearing awkwardness of youth — before life got really hectic and complicated. Here are some of the best quotes from the six seasons of The Wonder Year, considered one of the 100 greatest TV shows of all time. Be sure to share them with a dear, old friend.

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 other 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.

Love is never simple. Not for fathers and sons. We spend our lives full of hope and expectations. And most of the time we are bound to fail. But that afternoon as I watched my father sheltering his son against a future that was so unsure, all I knew was they didn’t want to let each other down anymore.

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.

Over the course of the average lifetime you meet a lot of people. Some of them stick with you through thick and thin. Some weave their way through your life and disappear forever. But once in a while someone comes along who earns a permanent place in your heart.

In 7th grade, who you are is what other 7th graders say you are. The funny thing is it’s hard to remember the names of the kids you spent so much time trying to impress.

And so Winnie and I had our one slow dance after all. But things wouldn’t be the same between us. We were getting older. All we could do was close our eyes and wish that the slow song would never end.

I knew at that moment, that life was not fair. Sure, I’d write to Teri, and maybe she’d write me-then what? Could we really wait for each other for the next 10 or 12 years? It was hopeless. I’d never felt pain like this before in my entire life. It felt, wonderful.

Don’t accept all this death and then justify it. It is wrong! Your friends should be alive, they should be enjoying dinner, and arguing with their kids, just like you are. This is my draft notice. In two weeks, I can go to jail, I can go to Canada or I can go get shot full of holes like your friend Brian Cooper. You keep thinking the way you do, Mr. Arnold, and these two will be next.

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 suddenly seemed very big and I felt very small; so I did what I could… 1972 was a crazy time. Kids played football, drove cars, went to school, celebrated life; while soldiers, heroes, their brothers struggled to find their way home from war; and young boys watched and grew wiser in their dreams.

There was a time when the world was enormous: spanning the vast, almost infinite boundaries of your neighborhood. The place where you grew up, where you didn’t think twice about playing on someone else’s lawn. The street was your territory that occasionally got invaded by a passing car. It was where you didn’t get called home until after it was dark. And all the people, and all the houses that surrounded you were as familiar as the things in your own room.

1968. I was 12 years old. A lot happened that year. There’s no pretty way to put this, 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. It was kind of a golden age for kids.

All our young lives we search for someone to love. Someone who makes us complete. 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.

[A wedding] was a testament to romance at its finest and most pure. It was a declaration of virtue. Simple, and gracious, and real. And after a day of infidelities… some proposed and planned, some more subtle… I felt for the first time… that someone believed in something a little different. In love. In commitment. In each other. It almost made me glad to be there. I guess you could say that weddings mean a lot of things to a lot of people. We might cry at the romance unfulfilled in our own lives. And shrink at the unseen compromises our lives have held for us. But weddings also bring out hope. And promise. And possibility. After all, as we choose our partners… some of us make our choices for life. And some of us dance with just one of many. And sometimes – for the lucky ones — we remember why we picked who we did. And after years of fighting over burnt toast…and bounced checks… we might, for a brief moment… look at each other as we once did — before kids, and mortgages and routine conspired against us. And others are content to postpone their choices… knowing somehow, that the future, like that Saturday afternoon, will tempt us with dances – both slow, and fast.

They say you can live a lifetime and never find love. So I guess I was lucky. Because true love crossed my path the first time I met the girl next door — Winnie Cooper. Winnie and I’d been together longer than any couple I knew. Still, history only goes so far. Kinda like Winnie. Unfortunately, the mathematics of the situation were open to interpretation. To me, they led forward, to that great unknown. But to Winnie, they led… back! See, the great thing about us was that we had this past together. The bad thing about us was that we had this past together. Not that I minded being part of Winnie’s past. It’s just, when it came to who I was… she seemed to regard me as a known quantity.

Read related posts: What Parenthood Taught Us About Parenthood
The Wisdom of a Grandmother
Letters to a Young Poet
The Wisdom of Pi Patel
The Wisdom of Hindsight

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3 thoughts on “Best Quotes from The Wonder Years

  1. In my early 20s a friend and I realized we were both big fans of the show. He bet that if we watched a marathon of The Wonder Years I would cry at the end of the last episode. We didn’t watch every episode but we watched around 40 hours worth we had on VHS. We took short breaks for runs to get fast food or take a 2-3 hour nap. When we finally got to the last episode he fell asleep. I can never prove I didn’t cry. That being said by hour 30 I would get misty eyed during the theme song…what would I do if you sang out of tune? I’d never get up and walk out on you!

    • TYH: Thanks for sharing that touching story. A great series makes you identify and feel a kinship with the characters. The Wonder Years is deeply nostalgic, especially with the music that transports us to the past. One can’t help thinking that we cry not only for the narrative that is played out, but the one that we project onto the small screen — the story of our own childhood, the past that has escaped our grasp. “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”
      Cheers, Alex

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