“Every kid needs a place to go to be a kid. “ I love this opening line for the episode. What a perfect way to describe the importance a space or place can be in allowing us to be who we are and want to be. The quote reminded me that the things that I remember most about my childhood are the locations in which I played with other kids. I don’t remember anything about those kids but I can still vividly see the places: the backyard, my apartment cul de sac, the swimming pool. All these places let me be imaginative and adventurous, the two best parts about being a kid. Paul, Winnie, and Kevin have the same feelings towards Harper’s Woods. As Kevin describes it, “It was ten minutes away from home, if you walked it. But to us, it was a world all its own.”
Unfortunately the places that mean so much during our childhood don’t stay in the same. We grow up and spend time elsewhere. We move away. More upsetting though- when others take it away from you. Kevin, Paul, and Winnie are shocked to learn that developers plan on removing the trees in their beloved Harpers’ Woods and building a mall. They don’t plan on standing idly by though and watch their spot get destroyed. They rush to tell their parents to get them involved.
Kevin’s parents react as I would expect them to react– they don’t see why Kevin is upset and said the woods were just a vacant lot. Mrs. Arnold wonders whether there will be a Loehmann’s. Later, Paul and Winnie recount to Kevin that their parents had similar reactions. Despite their parents ‘responses, the kids try to think of ways they can stop the construction. They naturally turn to Karen, resident hippie and believer in all voices being heard in a democracy. She suggests that the kids go to a planning board meeting on Sunday night and make their case.
The kids go to the meeting- excited and optimistic about the opportunity to speak their minds and fight for their cause. They wait for hours before the time allocated for them to speak finally comes. Kevin says an eloquent speech about how the value in the woods is in things you can’t see- his childhood memories, and they shouldn’t take that away. Another citizen speaks up agreeing with Kevin, saying it is wrong that they are destroying the area, and the whole audience is cheering Kevin. Looks like Kevin made a strong case by getting others on board, right? No. Turns out, the whole thing is in Kevin’s dream, and the reality is that the meeting is adjourned while the kids have been waiting- and fallen asleep- and a community member patronizingly suggests they come to the next week’s meeting. The Next week is too late however. The kids try to come up with other ideas but end up arguing instead. They reunite later in the evening when they make one last trip to say goodbye to the woods and remember their good times there.
I loved the passion the kids have towards saving something they love so much. The sad reality is that building malls was a sign of the time- suburban expansion- and there was nothing they could do about it. I liked that the episode had a mix of optimism, nostalgia, and cynicism, as it is an accurate depiction of how reality operates. In addition, this episode had the best quote of the season. When Kevin pops Paul’s understanding of their being a Mr. Harper (of Harper’s Woods), Kevin’s narration as Paul absorbs it is as follows: “The getting of wisdom is never a pretty sight.”