Foreverwood

I’m watching Everwood again, from the beginning. And I use the word ‘again’ loosely, because the first time around, I only bothered to check in once or twice per season. We didn’t have what you would call a deep relationship.

When the show ended prematurely in 2006, I mourned alongside its regular viewers. I’d gotten used to our annual check-ins, to its passing presence in my angst-filled and attention-deficient teenage years. I think I was mourning the loss of something I could count on, grieving the idea of it the way one grieves the death of a well-liked acquaintance. Goodbye, my almost lover.

Everwood is heartbreaking, profound television. It’s not without flaws, but is never without depth and kind intention. It was unfortunately mislabeled teen drama (and I suppose sharing a network with shows like One Tree Hill doesn’t help), but in fact it’s really about the different ways we learn the same lessons at various stages of life. The point is, we never master a lesson so completely that we can’t benefit from a review every now and then.

Above all, Everwood captured what it means to come of age at any age – to rinse and repeat the terrifying euphoria, the porcelain vulnerability, the collapse of illusion – in as real a way as I recall seeing on television, ever. And for most people, it’s true: You never really get too old to lose your innocence again. You do rebuild, but you don’t stay the same. And if you’ve loved once, you will love again. But you will love differently, with less abandon and (maybe) less imagination. The show never shied from confronting loss, from admitting that disillusion stays with us. It’s true; we carry our battle wounds. We move on, but with clearer eyes and much more careful hearts.

The scene above is not my favorite from the show, but it does perfectly capture this theme. I think when we lose our first love – when we figure out that cosmic feelings alone do not a relationship make – the idea of ‘forever’ loses its luster. This is particularly true after we move on, after we realize that it’s possible to stop loving someone we once could not breathe without, someone we thought we would love for all time. As it turns out, our bodies adapt better than our hearts could have imagined. Life goes on, and nothing has to be forever. “Oh,” we realize. The universe never made any such promises. What made us think that it did?

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