The Two, The Only: Calvin and Hobbes
The best goodbye in the history of goodbyes is the final strip of Calvin and Hobbes, after a ten-year run in thousands of newspapers across the country. The final words of the final panel of the final strip appeared on Sunday, December 31, 1995:
“It’s a magical world, Hobbes, ol’ buddy.
Let’s go exploring!”
And off they go, boy and tiger, down the hill on their sled. The world is white with new snow.
At the end of this month I am saying goodbye to writing these Friday columns. The coming days are full of possibilities, and I want to explore what else I can do with my “big sheet of white paper.”
Should you be unfamiliar with Calvin and Hobbes, there are eighteen books of the comic strip Bill Watterson wrote for ten years. The entire strip is about the theme we’ve been discussing this year: Perspective.
Six-year-old Calvin sees Hobbes as a real tiger. Everyone else sees the feline as a stuffed animal. That’s it—that’s the whole gag. From that simple premise springs Spaceman Spiff, Calvinball, Yukon Ho!, Miss Wormwood, a snowman house of horrors, Rosalyn the babysitter, Susie Derkins, Calvin’s unnamed but longsuffering parents, and a cardboard box with endless potential.
I own many Calvin and Hobbes collections, and I opened one of my books at random and found this strip, which illustrates why I’ve enjoyed writing these book review columns. (Depending on the year, they have been called Reading in the Wild; Reader, Come Home; A Ritual to Read to Each Other; Reading Generously; and Perspective.)
[Hobbes reads a book, under a tree.]
CALVIN: While you’re reading that boring book, I’m going to do something fun.
CALVIN: I’ll be having the time of my life, while you’ll be sitting here yawning and wishing you were …
[Hobbes holds the book away from himself, at arm’s length, while jumping and shrieking. Calvin is startled.]
CALVIN: I’ll just kind of read over your shoulder, OK?
HOBBES: No. Go do something fun.
This column has been about letting you read over my shoulder. Sometimes I let out an occasional AIEE, and my old puppies, resting nearby, are startled. It’s OK, I tell them, This is fun.
In an earlier Tweetspeak post, Will Willingham catalogued some Calvin and Hobbes poetry. During the years the strip ran, I was in high school and college, and then newly married without kids. I didn’t know how important poetry would become for me. Back then, it was just fun. Calvin & Hobbes reminds me that poetry can still be plain ol’ fun.
Here’s a poetry ditty a beloved professor recently sent me:
[Calvin sits at a desk, composing]
Mom once said she loved me
Just the way I am
So I wonder what would happen
If I became a clam.
If her son was gray and grimy
Slippery and slimy,
An oversize hors d’oueuvre,
Would Mom still have the nerve?
[Calvin looks at the reader.]
Good poetry gives me goosebumps.
Reading this golden oldie did give me goosebumps … and giggles. Suddenly it was morning in Waco, decades ago, and I was reading this strip in the newspaper and giggling. Nothing bad had happened yet. Reading it now, in an email, maybe nothing ever would.
And seriously, Watterson, way to pair SAT-words with silly, slimy clams.
Watterson gave a commencement speech to his alma mater, Kenyon College, halfway through the strip’s life, on May 20, 1990. Titled Some Thoughts on the Real World by One Who Glimpsed It and Fled, the speech remains great advice on maintaining creativity.
To invent your own life’s meaning is not easy … but it’s still allowed, and I think you’ll be happier for the trouble.”
This, from a guy who painted a section of Michaelangelo’s “Creation of Adam” on his dorm room ceiling, then, at the end of the semester, painted over it and moved out. This, from a man who never let his beloved characters be licensed or merchandised. This, from a creator who pulled a Salinger and went quiet, somewhere in suburban Ohio.
There are many ways to disappear. My favorite way will always be with a book, exploring what comes next after reading these magical words: chapter 1.
Thank you for letting me play in this poetic sandbox. I would not be the writer I am without the gift of Tweetspeak and T.S. Poetry Press. I’m off with my Tyger, Tyger for a “new year … a fresh clean start!”
Happy almost-2023, everyone. Happy exploring.
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“Megan Willome has captured the essence of crow in this delightful children’s collection. Not only do the poems introduce the reader to the unusual habits and nature of this bird, but also different forms of poetry as well.”
—Michelle Ortega, poet and children’s speech pathologist