ARCHIVE - How It Turned Out...

Archive: Fri Jul 11 01:46:40 2008
Title: How It Turned Out...
Mood: touched
A beautiful short piece by Peter Gillis. I'm pasting the whole thing here since its hosted on mac.com and I'm not sure what's gonna happen in the next few days and I do not want to lose this.

How it turned out

While going through my archives, I found this piece. I wrote it shortly after Charles Schulz died. I thought it was a very good piece, and emailed it to my friends--most of whom didn't get it at all.

Of course, I sent it without the faintest hint of an explanation: I may have put "Charles Schulz, R.I.P." in the subject header, but that was about it. Mea culpa.

And I can't bring myself to do much more this time around, except to note that there's usually only one way that change ever comes to the eternal childhood immortality of a comic strip, and that's by the strip being cancelled--and sometimes not even then.


SHE became a lawyer, which surprised no one but herself. Except for a brief flirtation with psychology (which she abandoned when she realized it involved med school) she had simply been drawn to, as she put it, "The power, the money, and the love of a good argument." She never ruled out marriage, but her romances always seemed to end with flying vases and cab rides across town in an overcoat and nightgown to sleep at Frieda's or Violet's. She realized that she'd made as many enemies as friends at the firm, which was no way to make partner, but she was really proud of the fact that even her enemies couldn't deny she was aces in the courtroom.

She worried constantly about her younger brother, who, after a stormy voyage through the seminary in which he was almost thrown out more than once, and a hair-raising stint of missionary work in Central America in which he llost hearing in one ear thanks to being too close to a semiautomatic rifle going off, had ultimately settled down to a small ministry in the inner city, where he was obviously very happy. Even though she never lost a chance to get in a dig at him for going nowhere fast, whenever he showed up on the local news presenting petitions or testifying at city council meetings, she always watched as if it were the Superbowl.

If anyone asked her why she always played classical music even though she couldn't tell Mozart from Moussorgsky, she would laugh very loudly and say it reminded her of the boy she left behind.

HE never got in to Juillard, which always rankled, but still ended up with an entirely respectable Ph.D. in Music History and stints as both Associate Professor of Music and Composer-In-Residence at two midwestern universities. He had even had his Second Piano Concerto performed by the Cleveland Symphony Orchestra, and had a CD of it pressed at his own expense. He married a member of the ensemble he played in: she was ten years his junior, and one day he came home to an empty apartment. After that, he gave up teaching and, after going to Paris to study for a while, settled down in the Northwest, dividing time between being a velvet-voiced announcer at a classical music station and giving music lessons to a few students. He married again, this time happily, to a professor of romance languages that he met at a Do-It-Yourself-Messiah concert one Christmas. They adopted a child, a little girl.

SHE had barely squeaked into college, she always said, and had gravitated towards a Phys. Ed. degree, because "those who can't do, teach--and those who can't teach, teach gym." But one day, while she was shooting hoops at the local Y, she met the handsomest man she had ever seen--or at least she thought so at the time. It turned out he worked at the PR firm her best friend worked (they had drifted apart afteer graduation)--and as she was not in the least embarrassed to say,"the reest was history." They had five kids, and while this took its toll on her fem-jock's figure, her oldest son would testify that she had a fastball that could burn a hole in a mitt." About the only cause of friction is that she persists in calling her husband "Chip" even though he hates it.

HE tried teaching after college, but soon found himself working downtown at the Board of Education. Inside of a few years he was director of educational enrichment services for the whole metropolitan area. When he finally married the teacher he'd been dating for years, the whole office breathed a sigh of relief. (It was right after a Halloween party where he was Daddy Warbucks and she was Little Orphan Annie.) He turned down a promotion because it would have taken him away from actual contact with kids, but after their third child was born, he took the post. But he would still go to school playgrounds and watch the kids play. He coached Little League, even though his own kids showed no interest in sports: he never pressed them. Although he never really encouraged it, everyone called him Chuck: he just wasn't the 'Mr. Brown' sort.

HE often talked about the dog he had had--going into detail about his little antics, running around with the supper dish in his mouth, chasing the birds that didn't seem to be scared of him in the slightest, chasing airplanes as if they were birds. He always said that he felt his childhood ended the night that, after so many years, in the middle of a big thuderstorm, his old little beagle vanished without a trace. Until then, he would say, he thought that nothing would ever change, the bad as well as the good. Then his dog ran off--"either to die or to chase airplanes--or, maybe both." He never got tired of telling those stories, even though, in later years, his wife had to correct him when he would call the dog "Sparky" throughout the course of an evening.

"Now why did I do that?" he'd say. "I must be getting old."

Posted: Monday - September 05, 2005 at 12:46 AM

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