Hey guys. I promised myself I’d do an entry on some of the more adult and sophisticated books that have influence my life lately, (no, not erotica with top hats and monocles,) really flaunting my English major flair for sophistication, but fate had other plans. Those plans were hiding in plain sight on my old bookshelf. I’m talking about books from my childhood and in one case, from someone else’s too.
I’ve picked up some old books over the years, picking through used bookstores and whatnot, so it’s entirely possible I have some older books in my stores than this, but it’s still one of the more beat up books I own. My dad’s usually pretty good about this sort of thing, but I can tell this was one of those books he took all over when he was younger. He even drew on the title page, to prove his artistic prowess.
Yup, that’s Snoopy. More specifically, that’s a drawing my dad made of Snoopy as a wee-one. Looking at the 1960s comics, it is a pretty spot on picture, not to brag about my prepubescent father’s drawing capabilities or anything. I can tell he had serious passion about snoopy, because asking him to draw anything nowadays doesn’t go down nearly as well, except perhaps for football plays, just little circles and lines, you know. I’m not really sure I can say he’s the one who introduced me to Charlie Brown, since Snoopy and Woodstock and all the rest are just about everywhere anyway, but I started reading books upon books of old Peanuts cartoons because I found my dad’s old stash, including this book, which was his first.
It’s one thing to laugh at Snoopy doing a silly dance on a greeting card, and quite another thing to laugh at as many strips featuring Snoopy’s antic’s as I did. I now know that Snoopy has three brothers named Spike, Andy, Olaf, Marbles, and Belle. That information is in my head now because my young brain decided it wanted to hold onto that story more than whatever algebra class I had that day. Thanks dad.
Luckily, my dad also handed me something more useful when he introduced me to the Peanuts, something I forget when I don’t read the original cartoons for a while. Flipping through this ancient tome made me remember how and why I could relate to Charlie Brown and his friends, and how that childhood connection went beyond, “I see them on TV every Christmas,” which I did, of course.
Charlie Brown was actually seriously down on himself, a lot. Like, to an unhealthy degree. If this cartoon took place any more recently, I think his parents would have put him on Xanax or something. Maybe I’m making this sound too sad, but that’s what made me connect to Charlie Brown. I remember feeling such solidarity with Charlie Brown every time the little red-haired girl or when his team lost a baseball game and blamed the whole thing on him. He knew my troubles, if no one else did, the utter inner anxiety over peer abuse, being utterly unloved and un-valued by and… okay this is going to dark let’s move on. I had a relatively decent childhood with a minimal amount of therapy, people, just to be clear.
Linus, you know, the kid with the blanket, also reminded me of myself because of what a weird little philosopher and theologian he was. Seriously, you might vaguely remember the Great Pumpkin as a funny Halloween reference, but every stinking year Linus would drag someone out to that pumpkin patch to have some personal crisis of fate revolving around belief in a higher power being tested by their apparent apathy or disdain for his efforts and devotions. Heavy stuff for a kid, especially one who still carries around a blanket all day. I’m an adult woman who wheres an Adventure Time BMO hat around campus then go off to my English 350 theory class to talk about Foucault or whoever, my emotional maturity being utterly dwarfed by my intellectual pursuits.
And finally, dear Snoopy. (I could go on but you don’t need to know my emotional connection to Rerun, which is the name of a real Peanuts character. I promise I’ll stop flexing the trivia muscles now.) A dear fellow blogger of mine, Stephanie with her writer’s block blog, actually touched on one of the main reasons I felt endeared to Snoopy. He’d always sit on the very top of his dog house and somehow balance what must’ve been a ridiculously heavy typewriter on the roof. My fourth grade teacher once gave me an old poster with that image and the quote above, “It’s exciting whe you’ve written something you know is good,) and that poster is still on my bedroom door, even now. I tried to take it to school even but it seemed to have melded into the house’s infrastructure by then. I found solidarity in Snoopy that let me play pretend in my head, and write those crazy day dreams down.
See? I’ve got surprisingly deep feelings about a simple series of kiddie cartoons. We usually do really. I never thought I’d go this far back talking about books that changed my life, but here I actually found some connections that were kind of profound. I guess sometimes it pays to go home for a bit. You might find something too, actually, if you look back to your cartoon and picture book days. It seems like this stuff seeps so deep into our consciousness we’re bound to find some surprisingly deep connection to a text not much more complicated than Goodnight Moon. Good children books do tend to have a deeper meaning than kids realize, and leaving it to snowball in your head then forget about creates some pretty interesting surprises to dig through during a weekend at home.