When things went “boink”

(This is a repost of something I wrote a couple of years ago. It still holds true.

Much love, adoration, and respect to Bill Watterson)

 

So…

 

When I was very little, my family wasn’t what you would call “independently wealthy”. We had what we needed, but very often entertainment was more in the “make your own fun” vein. For the first five years of my life, I was an only child. I have vague memories of that time, but what I do remember was awesome: standing up in the back seat of a monstrously large car (that my parents lovingly called “the battleship”), the faux wood trimming of the apartment complex we lived in known as the “Wood River Apartments”, and various other hazy memories of being a little boy. A week before my fifth birthday, a little, brown-haired alien entered this world claiming to be my “little sister”. All I can vividly remember from that time is the “doctor’s outfit” [read:scrubs] that the hospital gave me before letting me into the emergency room to see said extra terrestrial. Because of those scrubs, I thought that automatically meant that I was going to grow up to be a doctor. (Which, technically, is going to be true, but that’s beside the point).

 

But, when we were older, my mom would take me and my sister to the library once a month to check out books. I don’t have any memories of the books that my sister checked out, but I remember the literary arc that I went through…

 

From a very early age, I watched my dad’s reading habits, specifically on Sundays. They laid out as follows: Sunday morning, head to the kitchen, wait for breakfast, read the front page, then the sports, and finally, the comics. As I got older and began to read on my own, my dad and I worked out a system: I’d read the front page headlines while he read the sports and local news section, then we’d switch and he’d read the comics, with me handing him the financial section and grabbing said comics. It doesn’t sound like it makes sense right now, but it was something we perfected all the way until I was in my 20’s. The important thing to note here is that dad took the comics first. However, we quickly realized that we had a common sense of humor–the one panel comics of Gary Larson were the gateway. There was something very sharp about the one panel format that I still can’t put my finger on. As a kid, however, I thought all of Garfield’s exploits were hilarious. I mean, seriously, THE CAT CAN’T GET ENOUGH LASAGNA! CLASSIC…

 

But growing up around my mom and sister, and going to the library regularly, I noticed a familiar, smart-assed boy kept creeping into my (and, admittedly, my dad’s) life…

 

…Calvin.

 

He was the brilliantly eloquent 9 year-old I knew I could never be. Nor did I want to be him–in all honestly, his exploits reflected my sisters’ more accurately. Yet, I identified with him: I recognized that he could call bullshit, EVEN IN ADULTS! That was a revelation. And no other revelation was more concrete (for me) than this strip:

http://www.gocomics.com/calvinandhobbes/1987/12/06#.U85oWIBdURs

From my earliest memories, I recall thinking that, before me, life didn’t exist.

 

Seriously.

 

I had a whole system worked out: if I told you my theory and you said, “but I remember being alive,” I would’ve claimed that your memories were implanted just to supplement my existence.

 

I’m. Not. Joking. I actually thought this (say what you will about what it means to me and my ego). Which brings me to where I am in my life presently: I think this is why I do what I do. There is a glaring conceit that I can’t let go of, but that I’m willing to admit to. All I know is that I wish I had a counterpart by the name of “Hobbes” that I could bounce ideas off of. That I had a huge forest to run and play and go barreling down in a red wagon with my compatriot.

All that, to say this: you could do worse than to let your children live, breathe, eat, and drink Calvin and Hobbes. Had I not read those comic strips, I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing–neither would I be able to articulate what it is that interests me.

 

I also would never have memorized the phrase “I must obey the inscrutable exhortations of my soul”…

 

Because, even if my childhood was still different, I still picture it in terms of a lot of improvised rules and mad chases. Because we all want a forest in our backyard where we can be reckless. Because, even if our “sidekicks” are often uncooperative (or biological, in my case), they’ll still follow us to oblivion…

Let's go exploring
Let’s go exploring