John mentions trains in his second sentence. Is that some sort of record? He can't believe it's fall already. You and me both, buddy. He's getting his train stuff in order and has been doing yardwork. He keeps referring to cold weather. I know this is Canada, but September just started; how cold can it be? (Asks the Californian.) Trains trains trains blah blah blah. He wants to visit his sister in Manitoba and had considered going over there when April was visiting, but figured April needed a break from the "fogeys". He still wants to go, though, and thinks a fall visit would be nice. (Meanwhile, in Manitoba, the Cruikshanks change their locks, turn out their lights, and hide behind the sofa.) He's going to check with Elly to make sure she has no problems with him taking a trip. He mentions that once April's gone and they are no longer "parents" (quotation marks his), they can go whenever they want, for as long as they want. Hm, okay. I hope he and Elly realize that April might still need some "parenting" after she turns 18. To be fair, he does acknowledge that moving was tough on April (not to mention the living situation leading up to the move), and that he and Elly didn't fully recognize how alienated April felt. Still, it's too bad they didn't notice that before. Blah blah blah, more talk about how wonderful and non-changing the neighborhood is.
Mike breaks down the fourth wall and actually mentions "the creator of For Better or for Worse". Well, that was unexpected. He discusses the concept behind the hybrid, but my eyes glaze over no matter how many times this is explained to me. It just seems like such a mess and I still don't understand why Lynn doesn't just have the Lizthony wedding, then retire for good. He starts talking about how great his life is, and actually mentions Dee, who is now a head pharmacist, is volunteering for an AIDS organization, and is writing an article. Why oh why do we never get to see this kind of thing in the strip??? Merrie and Robin are making friends and the community as a whole is changing and growing, yadda yadda yadda. "Ideally", Robin and Merrie will bring the next generation into the world. I guess it's completely incomprehensible that anyone in this strip might not want to have kids. Michael thanks us, the readers, for the "rich experience" of getting to talk to us, and wishes us the best. I'm more convinced than ever that Lynn considers Mike an extension of herself, because this whole letter is basically Lynn speaking through Mike.
Liz is getting ready for the start of school. There's going to be a big assembly to lay down the ground rules for the students, such as keeping cell phones out of the classroom and adhering to a dress code. The kids in Mtig didn't really need a dress code, and they didn't have cell phones. Fascinating. I wonder if Liz misses Mtigwaki. She likes that her job allows her to have summers off. She mentions that poor, crazed Dee would benefit from something like that, seeing as how she works full-time and mostly raises the kids on her own (Liz doesn't say that last part, but we all know it's true). She's been spending time with Anthony and Francie, and comments that Francie's good looks and intelligence will get her far in life. I hate it when people pay so much attention to a kids' appearance, even in a positive manner. Francie has the rest of her life to obsess over her looks; why not set that aspect of her life aside for now and just focus on raising a happy, well-behaved, inquisitive child? (And if Francie were a boy, would Liz have even mentioned her looks in the first place?) Liz says that dating Anthony feels strange, but they're "comfortably drifting together". She says she's had many wonderful chances and has matured with each one. Okay, whatever. She looks forward to having kids someday and wants to write, travel, and sing. (Edit: I can't believe I missed the part about Warren. Funny that it's all about his failings, now, when she was the one who always wanted to take things at a glacial pace.)
April refers to her "pipes", which I guess are supposed to be her arms or legs, but I've never heard that term for anything other than the vocal chords, as far as human anatomy goes. She's nervous about starting the eleventh grade. She doesn't want to be worried about the "adult" things she sees Liz worrying over. Or the things she sees John, Elly, Mike, and even Anthony doing. Wow- is Lynn trying to see things through a 16-year-old's perspective, in a non-condescending way, for once? She specifically says she doesn't want a life like Liz's, "getting dumped by boys and spending evenings marking spelling quizzes". Okay, April, you're being a bit naive now. Life's going to be a bitch sometimes and you're going to have to do some things you don't want to do, and if you're going to be a vet, I bet you'll be pulling some late hours at your own job once in a while. She says she doesn't want to be like Dee either, who is always tired. Fair enough. See, this is why I sometimes feel I missed out, as the oldest child in my family. I had no older siblings to use as role models and/or cautionary tales. April is scared and excited at the same time to realize that she doesn't know where her life will be in 10 or 15 years.
Deanna talks about how life goes in cycles. The end of summer always gives her that back-to-school feeling, and she's thankful that at least she doesn't have to go to school anymore. Merrie will be in kindergarten full-time soon, and in a new school. She wonders where Merrie's life will take her. It's heartening at least to see that Dee doesn't assume her daughter will follow the marriage-and-kids track. More talk about cycles, and some kind of babble about chimps not needing parkas. O-kay. She is glad she has a great husband and dismisses his obsession with his writing career as something all writers experience. Nice enabling there. Apparently he cooks dinner, though, and is "there when they all need him". Dee says she is blessed and that we are all significant to the greater universe.
Iris says that her correspondence with pen-pals has tapered off as everyone ages. This makes me sad. Jim is experiencing a lot of depression lately and is not making much process in his therapy, but is alive and comfortable. Iris tries to keep them both busy and they have lots of guests. (Seriously? When?) She has more leisure time now than she ever has before. (Seriously? How?) She mentions again that they have lots of people over, yet she wishes she could get out more. She says Jim still gives signs that he cares about her, despite his depression. She is engaged in "quiet contemplation" as she watches the season change. Her daydreaming re-energizes her. She loves Jim and appreciates being needed. Iris, who do YOU need? What about what YOU want? Oh, forget it, it's hopeless. At least she seems relatively happy.
The pets can't tell one day from the next, according to April. No kidding! Why do we need a pet letter, anyway? The dogs like their new yard. Elly cat-sat Shiimsa while Liz was in Ottawa, and the two of them are getting along fairly well now. April visits Butterscotch a lot. The pets are all getting older and are more mellow now.