Blog No. 399
I have no idea where the memory for this post came from. The break in the heat and a nice couple of days probably helped, but really, it’s a pretty specific memory. Maybe it was a dream or just a stray particle bumped the right neuron. Either way. I was in grade school. Maybe grade seven. The house I lived in at the time backed onto St. Clair when there was mostly empty fields and not the rapid construction going on now. From my bedroom, I had a great view of our back yard, the fence, the wide field, a row of trees, and bits of old Huron Line through the gaps in the tree line. I was bad for doing homework (sorry mom and dad) and didn’t spend a lot of time at my desk working, but I would spend a lot of time goofing off. I’d listen to tapes on my little stereo and do all kinds of random things at that desk, overlooking the fields.
I was never that into comic books as a child. There was no real reason why not. My older brothers didn’t seem to be into them either. I did like the funny pages in the news paper, though. Not so much Cathy or The Family Circus, but I did quite like Calvin and Hobbes. (Not surprising for those who’ve read enough of these posts). At some time in grade school (maybe grade six) I was at one of the Scholastic Book Fairs (a favourite of many) and saw the book Revenge of the Baby-sat, a Calvin and Hobbes collection. It was this book that started my love of the series. I read that book to tatters. the corners of the cover curled up and the plastic film pulled up.
This is where the memory comes it. It may have been a few years later with the book well read and others in my collection, but it was a beautiful weekday evening. I was home from school, sitting at the desk, looking out over the field with the sun dipping closer to the tree line, reading that book and drinking powdered iced tea made way too sweet (by me). I had some big plastic cup promoting some movie or ride filled with the sugary liquid (undissolved powder collected at the bottom). I’d drink and read, flipping pages quickly as I’d read the comics so many times at that point.
I remember following the same routine for a few days. Maybe a week. I’d read Calvin and Hobbes before being called down to dinner. Eventually I got the entire collection (including the heavy and expensive complete boxset) and I’ve read them all multiple times, relishing the special editions with commentary by creator Bill Watterson. I even found a PDF copy of the entire series that I’ve read on my various eReaders over the years. (I maintain that since I’ve purchased all the books including most of the re-releases, that having an illegal digital copy is okay. You may think otherwise).
There’s something magical about that six-year-old and his stuffed tiger that has fascinated many more people than just me. Along with the humour and joy were a surprising amount of deep questions. There is a reason that there are multiple books about the series and its creator. They were made with passion and care. Both the writing and art were held to a high standard by Watterson to the point that he refused to sell merchandise and after ten short years of the best comic strip (at least in modern times) he retired. It’s a great example for me as a writer. Maybe I’m a little to rigid, but there is nothing wrong with having standards.
Not to say I am capable of matching the whimsy and joy in those panels. Those words and pictures stay with me, though, in more than just the memories of reading them and the memories of the stories themselves. I haven’t done a deep dive into the books in some time. I want to, but the risk is getting pulled in and spending all my time reading page after page until I’ve read them all. thinking about it now, it’s definitely worth the risk. See you in a few weeks when all 3160 strips.