Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Something Under the Blog is Drooling

I graduated high school the same year Bill Watterson stopped drawing "Calvin & Hobbes." It was a big deal in my house when the last comic strip appeared. My sister and I were die hard comic strip readers and my dad just fell hard for the comic timing, simple and complicated drawings and the deeper meanings and life lessons Watterson brought to the world (often with a tear or two, Baby Raccoon, anyone??)

I was on the Yearbook Staff the year before the final strip and I wanted desperately to fill some empty space on one of my pages with a section of Calvin and Hobbes dancing. My yearbook advisor helped me find where to write and ask permission. I was delighted to receive the "Okay" from the magical grown ups at the other end of my letter! I remember not being surprised. It felt like "Bill will think it's cool. He knows me!" (He doesn't. And I am sure he never even saw the letter.)

My dad "owned" all of the Calvin and Hobbes books that existed in our house. They often weren't on a shelf but instead open to a page near someone's bed or on the couch. You could always count on at least one copy in the bathroom magazine rack next to my mom's Good Housekeeping. (The Shumates are Bathroom Readers.) However, when I got married, I managed to bring quite a few of the books along with me. One of my favorites being the 10th Anniversary Edition where Bill Watterson picked out his favorite or most notable comic strips and talked about their inspiration, origins or arguments they brought about with his editors. I learned so much about the Art that Watterson felt he was creating with something as "throw away-able" as a newspaper.

The books I pilfered from my own dad were added to as I would find deals on the C&H books I had left behind. A nice collection accumulated and I often kept one or two in my own bathroom just as when I was growing up. Nate the Great came along and began reading and discovered a Calvin and Hobbes book one day. He was in: hook, line and sinker. He has read every book we own and every comic strip at least 3 times and he still reads the funny ones out loud to me which drives me crazy because I am not a fan of listening to people read out loud AND duh, I know. I have read them 3 times more than he has. One of my favorite memories of Nathan's 1st grade year in school was how he got busted by his teacher for retelling a punch line from C&H during class. She felt the joke was inappropriate. I thought it was hilarious. We had a hard time seeing eye to eye after that.

As I added to my household, more hands clamored for the books. I have lost a few books to overuse and I figure if a book is going to die, it's better to go that way than the way of the bird cage liner. I remember finding a page out of my beloved 10th Anniversary Edition that had become separated from the binding. I was upset-more than I should have been-and all Calvin was removed from the Zablets hands for a spell but not for too long. As soon as they would see a book left out when I had been reading, they were all back in trying to read while putting their shoes on in the morning or sneaking a book into bed with them along with a flashlight.

I am happy to sum up this little stroll with the news that I have repaid my dad for the swiped comic books when a two volume hardback edition of the Complete Collection was released and my sister and I went in on the purchase together. I may have made her promise that I get it when he dies. He may have said he's taking it with him.

But when we are over at his house, where will you find my kids? Dragging those big books off the shelf to read until we make them come to the dinner table. And even then no one wants to make them stop. We'd rather pull up a piece of carpet and join them.

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