More Sunday strips. Elly finds John throwing away a clump of black bananas. She insists that she's saving them, because they're perfect for making cakes and milkshakes. As soon as he leaves, she tosses them in the trash. Later, she designates "your end" and "my end" on the dresser in the bedroom; John puts the bills in the middle.
Pregnant Elly squeals with joy because she felt a kick. John mutters that he just wants to sleep. Elly kicks him. LJ's commentary: "When your wife asks if you can feel the baby kicking, always, always say 'Yes'."
Later, Elly heaves herself out of bed, looks in the mirror and thinks, "I can't believe how fat I am. I'm fat, I'm pale and I'm ugly." Seeing John watching her, she narrows her eyes and asks, "What are you staring at?" "Oh, nothing...I was just thinking how beautiful you are." LJ's commentary: "Yes, I did. I married one of the most sensitive, caring men on earth. Rod Johnston actually said these words to me. This scene actually happened. The man is a treasure...and a master in self-defense!"
In yet another strip, Elly gripes to herself about the discomfort and inconvenience of being hugely pregnant. Elizabeth asks "Why does nature make having a baby so difficult?" "Because the things you treasure most are the things you've worked hardest for."
When April is a few months old, John asks Elly what she'd like to do for Mother's Day. "Get away from the KIDS!!!"
Elly brushes her hair on the porch, reminiscing about how her mother used to do the same thing, and young Elly would watch from the window, wishing her own hair was as beautiful. In the last panel, we see Elizabeth watching wistfully from the window. According to LJ, this scene played out many times in her own youth. "Ursula Ridgway was a strict disciplinarian. I guess she had to be! So often we were at odds with one another, but out there, on the porch with her long hair billowing about her face, I could see the youth and the gentleness and the real spirit that was my mother."
Elly and John go for a walk, see an old decrepit couple barely able to hobble along, but still holding hands. "And I just hope they can be 'us' someday!"
Elly goes grocery shopping, forgets April in the car, remembers and pulls her out dripping with sweat. "I once left Katie in the car like this, and if it had not been for an open window and the shade from a tree, she might not have survived. To this day, I get an ache inside just thinking about it. We chaperone and protect our children and pray that they'll be kept safe from harm...and yet it's often plain, simple carelessness that costs us the lives of the ones we love most."
Mike shows Elly how to use the word processor. "You're right, Mike...it's amazing!" Then, back to tickkitta-tapping on the ol' typewriter.
Elly tries on a hideous swimsuit, wonders who'd ever wear it in public, then has no choice, since she has to chase toddler/escape artist April around the store and out into the mall.
LJ tells us of a friend of hers who has three kids and doesn't work. LJ asked her, "Won't it be nice when they're grown up and you can have some spare time?" Friend replies, "Look at me: I'm playing in a swimming pool, I get to sit in the park and feed the squirrels, I get to walk with my stroller down Main Street. In a few years, I won't be doing these things -- I'll be working! THIS is my spare time!"
Elly can't figure out how to open a CD case, even after Liz shows her. Later, she sees Liz heading off to school in full-on grunge gear. Internally, she's revolted, but congratulates herself on never having said a word.
LJ gripes about the ravages of age on one's face. For her, this didn't really start until she was 45. But she deals with it by drawing "theratoons". Meanwhile, Liz reminds Elly what Grandma says about smiles: "A facelift you get for free."
The collection, entitled "That's Not How They Do It On TV!": Elly and John have put an extension on the house so all three kids can be accomodated. John points out that "For the first time in our marriage, we can make a little noise!" Elly: "Yeah...Wanna turn up the volume? It's the news!"
Toddler April runs around and giggles. Elly thinks, "Baby giggles! I wish I could bottle them and keep them forever!" Later, she babbles nonstop while Elly is driving her to playcare. Elly muses that "Baby on Board" signs are meant to warn others that the driver may be close to insanity.
Elly's parents visit. Michael offers Marian his arm to get up the steps (the kind of thing he gets lauded for today, as if he never did it before age 29). Marian tells Elly that "Your children are growing up beautifully...You and John are doing a fine job with them." Elly tears up because "My teacher just gave me an A."
Elly is approaching her 45th birthday, and gripes to Connie about her declining looks. Connie asks, "Has it happened to you yet?" "You mean the big 'M'?...Maybe. But so far, it hasn't bothered me...and if it hasn't bothered me, how can I tell it it's menopause?" "If it bothers everyone else!"
Later, Mike tells Elly that she counted wrong: she's only going to be 44. "How could I have made a mistake like that?" "Hey, no sweat! At your age, you lose a few brain cells here...you lose a few brain cells there..."
Sunday strip has first instance of arm-flapping. Also tossing and turning in bed and yanking the covers out, which leaves John bleary-eyed the next day. "I think I'm going through the change of wife."
Book 15, "Starting From Scratch": Toddler April cuts her hair with scissors, and Elly freaks. John reassures her that it's just the kind of thing kids do. They hug, Liz comments that "Mom an' Dad are sure being affectionate!", April thinks smugly, "An' it's all because of ME!"
Liz blows a gasket over her sewing project. Elly ends up doing it for her. John objects, on the grounds that Liz should earn her grade and learn something (before he points out that he needs buttons replaced on his shirt). Elly does it anyway, just as Dawn's mom ends up doing hers for her. Dawn gets a higher grade, and Elly gets depressed because "Dawn's mom can sew better than I can."
Elly gets downsized at the library. "Is it really a budget cut, or is it me? Didn't I work hard enough? Didn't they like me?" Elly's supervisor tells her, "If you have any questions, just ask!" but of course she doesn't.
At home: "I can't believe I lost my job! It wasn't exactly full time, and it didn't pay a great deal, but I enjoyed it. I identified with it! I mean, without a job, WHO AM I?" April answers by hugging Elly's leg and crowing, "MUM!"
Elly composes her resume. Mike: "'Mother of 3 children'...Uh, do you really think that last line is necessary? I mean, they're looking for WORK experience!" Later, Elly goes jogging with Connie, in an attempt to "transfer the pain from your mind to your body," and ends up collapsed on the ground, wheezing. John tells her she should "start with something that's pleasant and comfortable and easy to do...I could use a backrub!"
Mike leaves for college and Elly feels empty. She finds flowers John bought for her, and goes outside to find him tossing a ball with April. "Daddy's a good catch, isn't he?" "Yes, April [hugs John]; he's a very good catch!"
Elly goes on a job interview. "You have no current sales experience, you've never used a scanner or processed charge cards, or..." "I know. But I am intimately familiar with the workings and management of most retail establishments!...I shop!" (with finger held aloft, Patterson style) After being told "We'll get back to you," she leaves the building feeling very, very small. John reassures her that "Something wonderful will come along when you least expect it! It's happened to you before...Me!"
Elly goes into Lilliput's, where Moira apologizes for the confusion and slow service. Someone quit that morning, and "I don't know where we're going to find another pair of hands on such short--" Elly holds out her hands. Lily accepts her offer to help out that day, then makes her permanent staff. The equipment is daunting, but at home, April shows her how to use a computer. "No, first you press the star key...DEN you press enter!"
Liz doesn't want to go home to an empty house, so she goes to the mall instead. Elly comes home to find Liz not there, but when Liz does show up, Elly envelops her in a hug. Later, she tells Connie that "I was so excited about going back to work again, I just assumed she would be okay...I feel so GUILTY!" Connie: "When a mother earns an income, that's the price she always pays."
Elly decides that the family will go vegetarian. Later, Elly sees grease stains and fried chicken fragments on John's sleeve, and knows instantly that he went to the Lucky Clucker. "I know the evidence when I see it! You're GUILTY! I can tell by the look on your face!!!" John: "Remind me never to have an affair!" Afterwards, Elly goes to lunch with Moira, and gets a beef chimichanga. "Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could just eat everything we like, and not feel guilty about it?" Moira: "Yeah, having all this food to choose from is a real problem! But when you think about it, it'a a problem that some of us are pretty lucky to have!"
Elly gripes about housework. "You finish at one end of the house and you start at the other! Every day I clean and I tidy and I pick up after OTHER PEOPLE!" Liz: "Man, it's amazing how fast Mom can work when she's charged!!"
John books a cruise for himself and Elly. "This is going to be a dream vacation, El. A chance to get to know each other again...An opportunity to relight that flame." "Yeah...And hopefully, there'll be someplace to SHOP!" On board ship, they enumerate all the activities available. "So...What should we do first?!!" Smooch!
Elly goes jogging with Connie and comes back to find John about to throw out old coffee. "Elly, there's about a cup of gross, black sludge on the bottom of the pot. Who in their right mind would want to drink this stuff?!!" Elly: "How fresh is it?" Later, Elly lists all the things she could accomplish if she got up at 5am. John: "Why?" As Elly hugs him, he thinks, "Every now and then I say the right thing."
Book 16: "Love Just Screws Everything Up": At a supermarket checkout, Elly has to dig for her checkbook, first pulling out a strip of wallet photos, a doll, a string of beads and a lolly. The cashier wishes her a happy Mother's Day. "Strange...I never told him I was a mother!"
April asks if Elly loves her, and how much. "I think it would be into the hoozamaflazamadoozamajillions!" "Really? Can anyone count that much?" "Uh huh...YOU DO!"
Elly is about to turn 45 for real, and asks Connie if she looks it. "If we compared ourselves to other women our age, we'd both score big time!!" Elly: "I keep comparing myself to the women I think my husband is comparing me to." Later, John reassures her that "You still have everything you always had!...It's just a little lower, that's all."
April asks why Elly tells people she's 39. Elly replies that it's "a 'little white lie', which means it's not a SERIOUS kind of lie." "Don't you always have to tell the TROOF if someone asks you somefing?" "I don't know, April...That's a 'grey area'."
John and Elly are delighted that April has such a good friend in Becky. Elly: "When I was in school, having a best friend meant everything to me." John: "Me too. And you know what? Now that I'm middle-aged and married, it still does."
Liz is in a funk for various reasons. Elly suggests that she give herself a makeover. "Man! You haven't been depressed for ages, have you, Mom!!" Bug eyes in the rearview mirror. Net result is that Elly gets her hair shortened about six inches, enough to enable the first appearance of The Patterson Bun. At home, she remarks, "Boy...someone makes a suggestion, and it's amazing what you'll do!" John: "Yeah!...Hey, ever thought of getting implants?!!" With his ski cap pulled down over his face, he thinks, "Hell hath no fury like a woman shorn."