Growing Up on the Sunday Comics
When I was a kid, my Dad got the newspaper every day whether it was delivered to our house by carrier, when times weren’t so tight, or if he took the hotel copy at the end of his desk clerk shift when times were very tight and we ate a lot of pinto beans and cornbread. Sitting in his third hand recliner with a cup of coffee and cigarette as this was in the days before the ban of everything bad for you, he would read each article, sale ad, and even the obituaries but would leave the comics till last. Pulling me up on his lap I can still smell the hot coffee steaming in his mug as he read me Snoopy (yes I know the name was Peanuts but let’s be real the dog was the star of the show), Garfield, and my personal favorite Calvin and Hobbs.
This is what I give credit to for learning to read and amazing my kindergarten teachers with knowing the alphabet so early. Come to think of it, I think that was the last time I impressed any teacher….
At first he would read and reread them to me and I would laugh even when I didn’t get the jokes but something happened along the way and I started to know the simpler words and then sentences until one day my father found his youngest and last child reading him the comics instead of the other way around. This changed our daily ritual little except it was now my job to do the reading and his to do the laughing.
In those comic panels, I learned a lot and started to develop my twisted sense of humor. I have to give thanks to all those artists that helped make me who I am today. Or maybe apologize; I’m not sure which is more appropriate.
Snoopy taught me that the simple things in life like a good root beer and friends, no matter how different and even if they are a little yellow bird, are to be treasured and when music plays: dance… if no music is playing then dance to your own music even if it’s only in your head. Garfield taught me to hate Mondays and as a young kid, I didn’t know how important that lesson would be. School starts on Mondays, work starts on Mondays, and worse of all it stays Monday all Monday long. We really should get someone to look into abolishing Mondays but anyone with the power to do that is the one that teachers left in charge to write down the names of the unruly kids when they left the room and they actually did!
Calvin and Hobbes taught me all the most important lessons I could learn at an early age. Where do you hide when it’s bath time? In the tub, it’s the last place they would look for you. What do you do when it snows? Build killer snowman armies with which to terrorize the neighbors. It was with Bill Watterson’s, the creator/writer/artist, sense of humor that my own building blocks started to come to life and my father and myself could laugh not only at the absurdity of life depicted in the strip but at it in real everyday life as well. Hobbes taught me it’s alright to be myself, even if you’re an imaginary tiger, and that not all girls are icky no matter what your best friend thinks. Let’s not go into what I learned from Spaceman Spiff, some things are best left up to others to learn for themselves.
Of course, I later went to Saturday morning cartoons, my parents bought me VHS cartoons to keep me entertained and out of their hair, and eventually Cartoon Network became a thing and I stopped going outside once and for all but my love for the newspaper comic strip never died. Along with it an appreciation for all the laughs, lessons, and feels along the way. Most of all Mr. Davis, Mr. Schulz and Mr. Watterson thank you for giving a little boy trapped in a grown-up’s body the memories of time spent with my father that I will cherish for the rest of my life and try my hardest to recreate with my own children.