forworse (forworse) wrote in binky_betsy,
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Collection Two: Is This "One of those Days," Daddy?

Since this week appears dedicated to strips of how funny it is that Jim is confined to a wheelchair and unable to communicate, I thought I'd post a look at the second collection.  This one is introduced by a fan who wrote to LJ to tell her that the comic was the story of her life, a precursor of the “camera in my house” brigade.

Recurring characters
  • Phil Richards, Elly’s brother, described as “still with the theatre, still playing the trumpet…a crazy life of late nights, women, travelling!”
  • Carrie Patterson, John’s mother, heard swearing at him over the phone when he tries to be honest about the Christmas (1980) presents she sent and tells her he hated them, then seen the following Christmas when she comes to visit
  • Gordon Mayes, first seen shortly after Mike and Lawrence start school in the autumn of 1981.
  • Will Patterson, John’s father, first seen at Christmas 1981
Incidental characters
  • Miss (Shelagh) Campbell, Mike and Deanna’s first grade teacher. At the end of the year Mike apologizes for being the “baddest kid in class”.  We never really see much interaction, yet she is described on the FBorFW page as Mike's favourite teacher.
  • Mrs (Margaret) Hardacre, Mike’s second grade teacher.
  • Darryl Smythe, the otherwise anonymous freckled boy who is often seen hanging around with Mike, Lawrence and, later, Gord. Add glasses to him and he’s a dead ringer for Anthony in junior high.  His name is mentioned when Mrs Hardacre yells at the boys after catching Mike making fun of her.  I don't recall his name ever being mentioned before or since.

The action begins immediately with an excited Mike reporting that Mrs Baird’s sheepdog had puppies and Elly threatens to quit if Jim and Mike return with one. Mrs Baird brilliantly manipulates Elly into accepting one and John reminds Elly that she had said that she might like another baby.

John takes Farley to obedience school and gets up at night when Farley whines; Elly thought-bubbles that he’d have slept through if one of the kids had needed him. When Liz comes down with tonsillitis, however, John gets up, grumbling and snarling, then, after seeing her tearful face, sits down to cuddle her and sing a lullaby.

Connie reacts to Farley’s arrival by calling it psychological warfare on John’s part to force Elly to stay home and curb her need for freedom and self-expression. Elly responds that Farley is cute, but clearly takes Connie’s advice to heart and decides to return to school and pick up the remaining credits she needed to complete her degree. When Elly finishes her courses in the spring of 1981, she and her classmates go to a pub to celebrate and John sulks about being left at home. Elly returns to school in the autumn, happy that she has come back to pick up the education she missed, but wondering what she is going to do with it.

Connie remains a major presence in the strips and her relationships, and Elly and John’s thoughts about them, feature often. With Christmas on the way, Elly mentions to Connie that her brother will be visiting. After some prompting from Connie to introduce them, Elly has Phil take Mike over to see Lawrence, resulting in a New Year’s Eve date being arranged. John sees the match as a disaster waiting to happen and Elly panics that Phil will take advantage of her friend. When he does return, Phil refuses to tell Elly what happened at Connie’s staff party. He leaves just after New Year’s and Connie moans that the story of her life is “love ‘em and leave ‘em”, but is forced to confess that Phil never actually said he loved her.

Elly tries to persuade Connie that Phil isn’t the right man for her, but Connie thinks otherwise and decides to take a week off to go to Montréal. Elly wryly tells Connie Phil’s address and agrees to look after Lawrence, but not long after Connie leaves, Lawrence tries to ride Mike’s bicycle down an icy sidewalk and smashes into a tree, breaking his leg. Connie knows she should forget about Phil and go home to comfort her son, but decides to remain in Montréal anyway and goes to the club where Phil is performing. Phil is friendly but makes it clear that he isn’t interested, offering to drop Connie at her cousin’s place; nonetheless, Connie is still mooning over Phil by the following summer.

Shortly afterwards, John brings Ted home for dinner and, unlike in the previous collection, remembers to call ahead and warn Elly first. Ted finishes his meal with a sexist comment of, “Yessir…you’ve got yourself a fine little cook there, John! A man needs pampering once in a while…and there’s nothing like a woman to give it to him.” Elly responds with a diatribe about equality, including, “If I cook and clean it’s because I choose to do so – not because I am subservient”. John and Ted go out for beer and complain about the way women are defensive these days and men are chauvinists if they open a door for a woman and boors if they don’t.

Ted loans the Pattersons his cabin for two weeks and offers to look after the Pattermanse while they’re away as his mother, with whom he’s still living, would appreciate some time to herself. In an extended story arc, the Pattersons arrive somewhere up near Sioux Lookout to discover that the cabin is filthy, leaky, freezing cold, has an outhouse instead of plumbing, and the lumps on the sofa move. Moments before they are about to return home after a miserable holiday, Farley gets sprayed by a skunk and has to have all his hair shaved off. As soon as they pull up at their house, Ted asks if they enjoyed the fireplace, sun porch and sauna and the Pattersons realize that they were in the wrong cabin. Elly gives John the silent treatment, upsetting Mike who complains to Lawrence that his parents are not speaking to each other but yelling at him. John eventually apologizes by repeating to Elly how much he loves her.

While the Pattersons were away, however, a still-lonely Connie meets Ted and falls head over heels. John cautions Ted that Connie is liberated, but Connie is happy to compromise her ideals to take care of the Pattermanse and do Ted’s cooking and laundry, thinking that “Teddy” was “so helpless”. The new couple come over to dinner and Elly quizzes Connie on how Ted matches up to all the requirements Connie had on her list of things to look for in a man; Connie admits that she changed the list. In time Ted and Lawrence seem to bond well and, since Ted wants Lawrence to play hockey, it isn’t long before Mike is signed up as well. Connie notes that Ted has always wanted a son, but hasn’t said much about wanting a wife.

As Connie becomes the more prominent friend, Annie starts to take a backseat, turning up on occasion only to complain or criticise, and does not appear in a positive light once in the entire collection. For instance, Annie criticises Elly’s parenting skills, like letting her kids eat anything they want, which in Annie’s opinion was responsible for Lizzie’s tonsillitis; however, Annie’s parenting methods are seen to be ineffective when it’s demonstrated that she hasn’t any control over Christopher’s behaviour. Annie whines about the start of football season and Elly suggests that she could try being more interested in it if she wants to spend more time with Steve, but Annie admits that she is too busy serving all of Steve’s buddies when they come over to stop and learn anything about the sport.

Midway through the book Lizzie has a party for her second birthday. The very next strip shows Mike celebrating the end of school, so the timing is consistent with Liz’s currently stated birthdate of 26 June 1981, except that *was* June 1981, so Lizzie has lost two, rather than three, years between this point and the present day.

Lizzie cries when Mike returns to school in the autumn and Elly muses over how little time she has before Lizzie is old enough to go too. Mike and Lawrence, in Grade 2 by the end of the collection, are approached by a new kid, Gordon (Mayes, although his surname isn’t stated), who offers them gum to be his friend. Gord is in Grade 3 and Lawrence feels left out when Mike shows Gord their secret salute. Lawrence is also upset with his home life as Connie has been seeing Ted every day for weeks and finally Connie has a talk with Lawrence to reassure him that he’s the most precious thing in her life.

Mike reacts in horror when his mother makes egg sandwiches for his lunch, wondering how he will ever sit next to Deanna Sobinski with egg breath. He pokes, nudges and leans against her until she complains to the teacher and gets to sit somewhere else and Mike fumes that he is definitely going to marry someone else. His crush continues into the next grade and, when Lawrence, Gord and Darryl tell Deanna that Mike has something special to tell her, he blushes and can’t stammer out anything coherent, so, to Mike’s total humiliation, his friends tell her that he thinks that she’s gorgeous. Elly sets up a meeting with Mrs Hardacre to see why Mike is struggling at school. Mrs Hardacre explains that she’s picking on him because she can see that he has potential.

John’s parents fly out from Winnipeg for Christmas 1981 and Grandpa Will is immediately put to work unplugging the toilets, down which Lizzie had flushed five toothbrushes. They buy Mike a trumpet and Lizzie some cymbals for Christmas, telling the kids that they can only be played outside. Lawrence envies Mike for having his grandparents in charge for two weeks – “You’ll get away with murder!” – while his parents are on holiday, but the collection ends before we see Elly and John on their very first getaway without the kids.

Recurring themes:
Relationships
Elly jokes about a failure to communicate when she drops hints that she wants a fur coat and John buys her a trash compactor. John says that their relationship is good because they are open, honest and let their true feelings out; Elly says she cannot remember the last time they had a real fight and John wonders if they are leading a dull life. When John laments that he no longer has time to make any friends and is feeling lonely, Elly calls him her best friend. John complains about Elly’s “cast-iron nightgowns” when he sees her donning another lengthy flannel affair. He remembers the flimsy, slinky outfits she used to wear when they were first married and she says that she didn’t get cold then.

John is a Jerk
Elly saves $20 by getting a hand-held can opener instead of the electric one she intended to buy, only for John’s new $2,000 stereo system to be delivered. When she accuses John of wasting money on a new stereo when the old one still works, he replies, “It’s my money”, provoking a fight. Elly can’t let the comment go and presents John with a bill for his dinner to prove her monetary worth. In an attempt to make things right, John buys Elly an expensive dishwasher. She is still upset, but doesn’t want to let him take it back and admits that everyone has her price.

Appearance
Elly again accuses John of dressing badly when he puts on an old threadbare coat and later that she will be blamed if he’s seen in public in checked trousers. A third strip on this subject appears at the end of the summer when he tries to escape with wrinkled trousers and he says that he’s been wearing them for a week before she noticed.

Throwing things
Elly throws some laundry at John’s head after their disastrous holiday near Sioux Lookout. Several pages letter she whips a coffee cup at his head after complaining that Mrs Baird wears her out with all her chatter about nothing and John says that Elly should be able to handle that.

Sibling rivalry
Mike watches Elly playing with, hugging, kissing and cuddling Lizzie and asks if he’s too big to hug, but there are very few strips about the two kids interacting.

Parenting Styles
When Mike complains to Lawrence about his $1 a week allowance and then goes to his parents to complain that Lawrence gets $2 a week, John suggests that Mike do some work to earn more money. Mike refuses and John gets angry, telling Mike that he owes his parents in return for their paying for his clothes, food and education. When Mike rolls his eyes and replies, “Did I ask to get born?” John spanks him (off-panel) and Elly questions whether this was the right thing to do. Before reaching the halfway point in the book there have already been two strips about Elly shopping with the kids and refusing to buy them treats, then giving in; she describes it as a toss up between being consistent or remaining sane.

Pattersnarfing
Elly tries again to interest John in fancier meals but he replies that he prefers simple meals and probably could eat the same thing every day. Elly dishes out puppy chow to Farley as John suggests that there are others with the same opinions.
Tags: foob history
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  • 33 comments

  • Monday, 25 October 2021

    The one where Elly reminds John that she lives and dies by what other people think of her. Synopsis: When John has the temerity to question Elly's…

  • Sunday, 24 October 2021

    The dialogue-free one that predicts how and why Farley will die. Panel 1: As John rakes the leaves in the background, we find April crunching a…

  • Saturday, 23 October 2021

    The one where Lynn reminds us that she really doesn't understand teenage boys at all. Synopsis: Mike, Brian, Lawrence and Nodrog (might as well…