Good Grief
By biconews On 22 Feb, 2000 At 05:00 AM | Categorized As Archives | With 0 Comments

By Akino Irene Yamashita
Guest Columnist

I still remember where I was when I learned of the news. It was the day before Valentine’s Day, Sunday, February 13, 2000.

I was where I am now as I type this, at my computer. I fired up my browser and went to my start page, and there was the headline. “Peanuts” Creator Charles M. Schulz Dead at 77.

I felt my throat tighten, and my eyes became warm … and wet.

The article on the Internet called Peanuts “the voice of the baby boom generation.” Other attempts to analyze Charlie Brown, Snoopy and the rest of the gang called the characters “angst-ridden,” facing the “tiny triumphs and plentiful pitfalls of modern life,” and so on.

But when the news hit me, I couldn’t follow much of that kind of detailed analysis. What I did realize was that, this time, an icon from my own lifetime was gone.

Now, when The Chairman of The Board (Sinatra) left the building forever, when Joltin’ Joe (DiMaggio) left and went away, I observed the mass mourning, but it never sunk in for me. Why mourn someone you never met, never knew?

Now I understand. Not only did I never meet Charles Schulz, I never knew much about him personally.

But, with the end of Peanuts, with the death of its creator, a part of my childhood died as well.

I did not read American comics much when I was a child, since I had access to many Japanese comics, which I thought had much more interesting stories than did the American comics … except for Peanuts.

There was a big box in the children’s section of my local library with many paperback books of compiled Peanuts cartoons from the 1960s and 1970s. Yet, I did not sense any “generation gap” when reading about the world of Peanuts.

My first love was Snoopy, the daring beagle (a.k.a. “Joe Cool” or “The World War I Flying Ace”), a dog that somehow managed to be a doctor, lawyer, scoutmaster and writer, all the while maintaining activities associated with typical dogs: eating dog food, fighting with the neighbor’s

cat and sleeping on top of his doghouse, of course.

I had no idea if the human characters could hear Snoopy “think.” I’m still not sure.

I didn’t follow the lives of the kids at first, but Snoopy, the “kid with the big nose,” as Peppermint Patty called him, always brought a smile to my face.

The first “kid” I noticed was Linus, as he is the Peanuts character I identify most closely with. I first noticed him for his security blanket and his fights with Snoopy when Snoopy would snatch it from him.

I had a security blanket at that time, too, so I totally understood what it meant to him.

Later, as I grew older and noticed that Linus was the “intellectual” one in the gang, though younger than his sister Lucy or friend Charlie Brown, the contradiction between his intelligence and his more babyish side spoke to me. I have always been the “smart one” in my family and among those of my parents’ friends as well. Yet, I can also be very immature for my age. And I tend to have older friends, too (though I never had a “crabby” older sister).

I also identified with Charlie Brown - “good ol’ wishy-washy Charlie Brown.” His life seems to have actually gotten better as the strip evolved. In the earliest strips, CB had no real friends, and he was always the outcast. Later, for some reason, he did become the manager of a baseball team and make friends, even though some of them would insult and tease him.

But most were there for him when it counted.

He even had girls fall in love with him … though he never quite noticed, since he was always looking after the “little red-haired girl,” a picture of longing that spoke to me long before I’d ever heard of Gatsby and Daisy.

As I grew older, the many unrequited loves became apparent to me. Peppermint Patty was obviously head over heels for “Chuck,” as was her best friend Marcie for “Charles.” Charlie Brown, of course, loved the little red-haired girl.

Sally had a crush on Linus, her “sweet baboo.” The plot arc where “Miss Othmar” breaks Linus’ heart by getting married was one of the sweetest, saddest stories I ever read (though perhaps that kind of story would indeed be hard to enjoy in this day and age). Lucy had a sweet spot in her heart for Schroeder but could never compete with Beethoven.

In my own, naive experience, it seems unrequited love is much more common than requited love, and much more understandable.

How normal is it for two people to feel the same way about each other at the same time? How easy is it for two people to communicate, to see eye-to-eye, to know where they stand with each other? At least for me, it’s not easy at all.

One good thing, though, about unrequited love, especially unspoken love, is that it always leaves room for hope. Many have said that Peanuts was about how hard life can be, for not only does no one in Peanuts get the girl or guy of their dreams, Charlie Brown never gets Valentines, keeps a kite in the air or wins a baseball game. Lucy always snatches the football away, the Great Pumpkin never comes, and Snoopy never gets published.

But in the face of all this defeat, somehow, hope springs eternal in the world of Peanuts. Almost as in the world of gamblers - but in a sense, most of life is a gamble. Without hope, why would we care to do anything?

That is one thing Peanuts taught me, what Charles Schulz taught me. It is a lesson I think of whenever I face my own “tiny triumphs and plentiful pitfalls of modern life.”

Oh, and Charlie Brown DID win a baseball game once in 1993…by hitting the winning home run.

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