"Good bye, Good Grief"

by K.  Peak


February 13, 2000, the final "Peanuts" strip ran today in the Sunday paper.  On the news this morning I heard Charles Schultz, creator of Charlie Brown, Schroeder, Lucy, Linus, Snoopy and Woodstock and all the other characters had passed in his sleep on the eve of his final strip. 

 How may of us grew up reading "Peanuts" over our morning cereal?  How many of us flipped to the comics section while riding the subway or over our morning cup of coffee before starting a workday and sought out that simply drawn comic.  Maybe today Charlie Brown would kick that football.  Would Snoopy finally defeat the Red Baron?  How could Schroeder play Beethoven on a toy piano or Peppermint Patty not get frostbitten toes in the winter?  Would Lucy stop being such a snit to Charlie Brown? How many of us thought they would never go away?

 For me, the magic of Charlie Brown and his friends were the basic drawings and the deep message.  There was spirituality without preachiness.  There were lessons without lectures.  The hero was an underdog who never gave up.  His closest human friend was a blanket-toting Linus who showed that even wise people need security.  Snoopy had his fantasies from being a World War I Flying Ace to vainly trying to be an author. No matter how many rejections or snide remarks he got, Snoopy kept dreaming and writing. Charlie Brown never gave up his need to be noticed by the Little Red Haired Girl.  He never gave up waiting for a Valentine that would not come. No matter how many times Lucy held the ball and we knew what the outcome would be, Charlie Brown kept persevering.  Linus spent every Halloween waiting for The Great Pumpkin. Sally fawned after her Sweet Baboo - her love unrequited. Charlie Brown found that scrawny tree that turned out to be beuatiful. Lucy gaev Psychiatric help for a nickle but was more concerned about the sound of clinking in her collection can.  Pigpen, Franklin, Schroeder, Woodstock, Violet, Marcie, we could all relate to at least one character if not more.

 A news report showed a clip of "You're a Good Man Charlie Brown." I thought back to my wedding, January 10, 1993. At the rehearsal, we told the pianist not to practice certain music. It would be a surprise for the family and guests.   I watched as the bridesmaids and Maid of Honor were escorted down the aisles to strains of "Happiness." I do not know how many people realized this was "Peanuts" music.  After the ceremony, as the last of the wedding party exited the church, the pianist made a nice segue from "Jesu Joy of Man's Desiring" to "Linus and Lucy" known to most as the music from Charlie Brown.  Mom turned pale but then realized, this was something her oldest daughter would have done - and did. This music was part of my childhood, now gone.

 In an era of digitized cartoons with blazing lasers, little pocket-sized monsters, and dripping sexuality even in cartoons geared towards children, "Peanuts" was entertaining without any flash, violence or sex. I have seen what are called children's programs. I watch a program before allowing Connor to see it. With the exception of public television, I do not think much of what is on today is appropriate.  This morning, while channel surfing and mulling over a tribute to Charles Schultz, I saw a clip of a cartoon on a "family channel."  Two boys walked into a bathroom where a girl was taking a bath.  I was shocked at the erotic way the girl stretched her leg and seductively covered herself while blushing.  These were children!  These were children being cast as adults! This is not what I want my young son watching when he gets older. "Peanuts" was never violent above and beyond some sibling rivalry or an occasional threat to "bop you!"  I never saw a half naked child drawn by Charles Schultz.  Even though the message may have had adult undertones, it was never sexual, violent or bloody. "Peanuts" was truly entertaining while not corrupting. This era is over. Yet we can keep it alive, if we wish.

 I want my son to learn life's lessons from wholesome sources. I want Connor to learn that little boys and girls should be playing baseball, flying kites or just kicking back and watching clouds.  I want Connor to know that Happiness is a warm puppy and it is fine if you need to cuddle a blanket. I want Connor to realize that girls can play sports. It is OK to get dirty. Christmas is not just for getting gifts. Halloween is not all about candy.  Maybe there is an Easter Beagle.  It is not bad to be an underdog.

 We have lost a piece of Americana.  Our children will not grow up with the colorful drawings of children with abnormally large heads.  Instead, they will be assaulted with images of flashy computer animation and situations they cannot relate to.  They will not see a brash girl offering Psychiatric help for five cents.  They will not see a little sister ever tormenting her big brother with requests to help with letters to Santa. They will not see an ever-losing baseball team keep trying against all odds. Sadly, they will never see Charlie Brown kick that football. And neither will we...

 Mr. Schultz, I never met you, but I feel like I lost an old friend. Of all the holiday specials, it was the ones of your children I watched the most - and still watch.  Thank you for close to fifty  years of "Peanuts." You will be missed by all.                


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