Sunday, December 07, 2008

Remembering Calvin & Hobbes

For seventeen years, my employer had a helicopter base at the Santa Barbara airport, less than an hour from where I was born and raised. I was lucky enough to work out of there for those seventeen years.

One day in the mid-eighties, I stepped out of the ops building for some air. I spotted a woman and a little boy, perhaps three years old, on the other side of the fence. They were watching one of our helicopters land to the parking ramp.

The passengers, eleven men who'd just spent a week offshore on an oil platform, disembarked and walked across the ramp. I walked to the gate, and told the woman and son that they could enter the ramp area. They did. Then the little guy saw his dad, a mountain of a guy with a big grin on his face. The little boy sprinted to his dad, joy pouring from him. Dad scooped him up, covered him with kisses, and held him close.

It hit me with a wallop. It was such a beautiful scene that it hurt. Tears welled in my eyes, and I walked away from the group to watch from afar.

I'd always enjoyed the company of friends' kids, but I was utterly convinced that I never wanted to become a father. I harbored all those standard "state of the world" reasons, yeah, but what it really came down to was a fear of loss: becoming a father seemed tantamount to putting your heart out there and daring the world to stomp on it. I just didn't think I could handle the risk that came with loving someone that much.

Coincidently or not, I discovered Calvin & Hobbes that Sunday in the newspaper funnies. I never read the funnies, but at the prompting of my friend and coworker Roger, I read the strip about the six-year-old boy and his imaginary, or not so imaginary, friend. Thus began my love affair with Calvin and his tiger. That little comic strip reawakened my appreciation for the magic of childhood, and planted the seeds of doubt in my mind and heart as to the "I don't want to be a father" thing.

Calvin & Hobbes had a ten year run, ending in 1995. I still miss it. I almost never look at the funnies anymore, unless it's with my son.

My son Dylan was born in 2000. Sometimes he reminds me of Calvin. He'll be getting a Calvin & Hobbes book for Christmas.

Sometimes I still wonder if I've put my heart out there and dared the world to stomp on it.

But that's okay. Give joy a chance, and most of the time, it'll thump the crap out of fear.


Mary Paddock said...

Well put Hal. I consider my four boys a gift from God, one I've often felt unworthy of over the years.

I am a long time huge fan of Calvin and Hobbes. With four boys you can imagine that I've had more than one Calvin type moment. My favorite "story" is the one about the raccoon that he tried to save. 'Still makes me tear up. On a less profound note, the snowmen series still produces rounds of giggles here.

Debby said...

I have the very same book on my bookshelf. I love Calvin and Hobbes for the same reason that I love Pooh. A child's world of make-believe lasts such a very short time.

Calvin is a slightly warped Christopher Robin.

Kelly said...

I LOVED Calvin & Hobbes and have six of the books. Yep, I agree that the snowman series probably leaves me laughing the most!

Oh, and Debby.... Pooh is STILL the best! No one else can compare.

Annie said...

I'm ashamed to say I'd almost forgotten about Calvin & Hobbes....I was so sad when the strip ended.

Bob said...

Thanks for the great remembrance of Calvin and Hobbes, truly one of the great ones. I am a BIG Comics fan, inherited it from my parents who faithfully read Blondie, Jiggs and L'il Abner. I read them every day.

And yes, being a parent is all about putting your heart out there to be stomped on, which it will be. But let me tell you, that heart is about as full as it can be and re-inflates almost instantly after being stomped.