My Life in a Peanut Shell

I just realized (in the spirit of life imitating art) that recent events in my life were merely a series of promos for the upcoming Peanuts movie.

Everything that I needed to know I learned in kindergarten(?) or maybe in some of the cartoons that my mom relied on to babysit me.  We already know that some of the greatest childhood entertainment came from Looney Tunes, Hanna Barbera, and Peanuts.  Charles Shultz would be turning in his grave if he witnessed the evolution of children’s entertainment.

“But NO!  I had to listen to YOU…”

The above clip has had significant meaning to me in the past few years.  Take a look at the script:

“I’m glad you came back…”

“You’ll see the Great Pumpkin with your own eyes…”

“If you try to hold my hand,  I’ll slug you!”

“You look all around and there’s not a sign of hypocrisy…”

“I was robbed!  I spent the whole night waiting for the Great Pumpkin!”

“Halloween is over, and I MISSED IT!”

“And it was all your fault!  And I’ll sue!”

“What a fool I was…”

“You owe me restitution!”

pumpkin carving

“You’ve heard about furry and a woman scorned, haven’t you?”

“Well, that’s nothing compared to the fury of a [woman] who’s been cheated out of trick or treats.”

Each line above has meaning to me.  We could explore the nuance of each one, but it is a personal journey, no? Remember, these cartoons were created nearly 50 years ago!  Although they were not likely to be a prediction of things to come, they were certainly a reflection of the way things were at that time.  A happier time, maybe.  My naivety and genuine innocence prevented me from perceiving the full weight of what was happening in those cartoons.  But now, it’s far more than an opportunity to reminisce.  There was something there for me to see THEN.  There is something so familiar that it has awakened something in me NOW.  I’m not embarrassed that I could draw something so prolific from a childhood memory.  In fact, it lends itself to the notion that a seed was planted then that will blossom now.

Do you suppose that the most overlooked part of Trick Or Treating is the trick?  We are so focused on the treat, that we forget that there is an alternative…the silver lining, if you will. That trick is a surprise.  It jolts the system causing either alarm or uneasiness.  It’s a learning experience, and its an opportunity to avoid being tricked again.  That knowledge is far more valuable than any classroom lesson or parental warning. Ah, the silver lining…the reward on the other side of disappointment.

I come from an era when my mother was reluctant to let me engage in tradition Halloween shenanigans like “mischief night,” “beggars’night,”or the actually dressing up to go door-to-door asking for treats.  She blamed her mistrust on the Atlanta Child Murders, the Tylenol Scare, and a general mistrust of strangers.  It was never due to the evil that the holiday represented.  And for me, whatever mom decided was law!

In college I read James Baldwin’s “Evidence of Things Not Seen”baldwin This gave me healthy a perspective of the racial relations that led up to a mis-adjudication of a black man for crimes committed against young children by an “uncatchable” serial killer.  “The Tylenol Scare” referred to an urban legend about children receiving tampered candy and medicinal treats instead of the traditional Halloween spoils. The general mistrust of strangers is certainly a trait that I’ve carried into adulthood however.

My childhood was probably no different from any other child born in the early 70’s who endured the disco era, Reaganomics, or 80’s fashion.  But it was the cartoon entertainment that had the most profound impact on me.  From Peanuts, I grew excited about the holidays.  I learned mistrust from my “friends” each time I witnessed Lucy pulling the ball away from Charlie Brown (every time he began to believe in the genuine goodness of people).  I developed an enjoyment of neo-jazz from the score in each Peanut’s Holiday Special.  I witnessed gender identity develop each time “Chuck” had an encounter with Peppermint Patty.  The lone black kid, the musician Schroeder, and Pig-Pen were all characters that I could relate to because I either knew someone like that kid or I WAS that kid!  Not to mention the very first time I heard what Christmas was all about [Charlie Brown]. It was my first exposure to the biblical story according to Luke.

But the Halloween Special…  that one’s most meaningful to me now.  Have you ever considered the undertones about faith in that one?  The waiting for evidence of things unseen?  That’s Hebrew 11:1!  And only as recent as yesterday did I stumble across what some believe to be the true meaning behind the Allhallows Eve. But what I experience now adds meaning to what I already held to be true.  The caution, the waiting, the patience, the disbelief, and now the 12 steps to recovery.  Laughingly, I recognize that not everything in life requires therapy to recover.  Sometimes a few moments of silence is all that is necessary.  I wonder what the the Peanut’s Valentine’s Day Special has in store for me.

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