The memories that were, and the days that are
This collection of memories came to me this week when I (quite randomly) thought of the final Calvin and Hobbes strip, now memorialized in Bill Watterson’s final collection, It’s a Magical World.
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On Sundays, I told my friends I couldn't go over to their houses because it was family day. I wasn't a Christian yet, but I had the vague notion that Sunday was supposed to be special—a day to, at least, to be together at home instead of go to school or run around a friend's backyard.
On Sundays, we sometimes went to church and stopped at Cumberland Farms afterward, where Mom bought me Fun Dip: three packets of colored sugar with a white sugar stick that I'd lick and dip and lick and dip while sitting on the swing set in the backyard. I always ate the red sugar first—until they came out with blue and I started with that because it was my favorite color.
The treat was originally called "Lik-M-Aid," which I pronounce "Lickamaid" to this day. I know it would be too sweet for me now, but at age six or seven or eight, swinging on the white plastic swing with its metal chains coated in translucent blue rubber, using the chalky stick to shovel artificially flavored sugar onto my tongue, that sweetness was the perfect accompaniment to a sunny summer day brimming with possibilities.
On Sundays, I laid on my stomach in front of the fireplace in the living room and read the comics, the three-page, full-color newspaper insert spread out on the worn carpet in front of me. I followed little Billy's Family Circus antics, laughed at Broom Hilda's strange misfortunes, and watched Sarge chase Beetle Bailey from frame to frame. I read Cathy without understanding what she complained about and watched life disappoint Ziggy yet again. And, of course, there was Dagwood with his mile-high sandwiches, the familiar confrontations between Garfield and Odie, and Charlie Brown's perpetual failure to kick the football.
I wrapped it all up with Calvin and Hobbes, my favorite of all, with its prominent place at the bottom of the front page. I turned there every week to follow Calvin as he ignored his teacher, annoyed his parents, dreamed up dinosaurs, built bizarre snowmen, and duked it out with his mother's green mushy dinners—until 1997 when Bill Watterson drew his last magical panel, and the comics were never the same again.
On Sundays, I took walks around the trails with Mom or went fishing with Dad or visited the little beach by the pond to swim and build sand castles. I played badminton and whiffle ball in the backyard with my brother, using trees as boundaries and rocks as bases. I hunted for vibrant autumn leaves that Mom pressed between two sheets of wax paper atop our squeaky yellow ironing board. I donned my jacket and snow pants and boots and went sledding down the big hill in the neighbors' yard, my heart skipping as I sailed over the packed snow and hit the little dip at the bottom that sometimes rocketed me up and across the trail beyond. I laid on the discolored carpet in my bedroom and read book after book after book from the latest stack I'd checked out from the library or played with my dolls and stuffed animals or listened to my favorite cassette of Disney-branded pop music.
I honestly don't know if this was all on Sundays. Maybe it was weekends, too, or summer days, or every vacation from school. But some of it was on Sunday, that long and lazy part of the week that stretched out slow and subdued, a canvas for memories.
On Sundays, I took the 30-minute drive from my first apartment to my parents' house after lunch and spent the afternoon revisiting the newspaper in that childhood living room, wood stove crackling in the background on cold days, curtains open to admit the sun in summer. We walked the dog up and down the rolling, winding road before settling in to play a game of Qwirkle or Scrabble or Killer Bunnies and the Quest for the Magic Carrot. As the afternoon waned, conversation dwindled and I started knitting, and maybe sometimes a record played on the old turntable in the corner by the piano, but I don't remember.
Then Sundays moved to a living room with hardwood floors and a gas fireplace and new furniture when my parents bought a house 10 minutes away from my second apartment. And they stopped getting the newspaper, but it didn't matter because I didn't read the comics anymore. The living room was still warm, and the dog still needed to be walked, but in a weird way those afternoons are fainter in my memory than the days of sunshine and colored sugar.
On Sundays, I go to church, where people smile and give me hugs and ask how I'm doing and how they can pray for me. We sing along to piano and guitar melodies, and sometimes we clap or shout, "Amen!" And it feels like a little family with dozens and dozens of sons and daughters and brothers and sisters and fathers and mothers, and there is no wood stove or worn carpet or newspaper, but one day the pastor quotes Calvin and Hobbes in his sermon introduction—and I smile.