Miss Lyon: Lizzie's kindergarden teacher
Mr. Warren: a teacher at Mike's school, presumably the gym coach
Sue: Elly's coworker at the library
“Dynamite” Dave Dugas: DJ at CQRK who interviews Elly
Liam: student at Lizzie's school; plays the shepherd in the school play and is partially responsible for the missing batteries
Darryl Smythe (presumably--friend of Mike)
Irene: Ted's assistant and new wife
Unnamed Blonde Women who works in John's office: listens to Elly's gossip about the Ted/Irene situation
Ages of characters: Liz is in kindergarten in this collection; Mike is in the fourth grade.
This collection begins in the summer; Mike and Lizzie are home from school, and Elly struggles to write an article. Once she finishes, she feels like a hypocrite, as it's about kids reading for fun, and her own kids are spaced out in front of the TV. She sends them outside to play. Mike, Lizzie, and Lawrence make a TV out of a cardboard box and play with that.
On a different day, Elly shoos Mike out of the house. He and Lizzie play badminton, but Mike soon hits all the birdies up on the roof. Mike is called back inside for his music lesson with Uncle Phil.
As summer draws to a close, the Pattersons host a BBQ. John jokes that they're doing so as a pay to repay all the people who invited them to dinner over the year. Phil and girlfriend Georgia attend, as does Connie. Phil and Connie chat, and John wonders if he's still "CRAZY" about her, right in front of Georgia. Elly panics; she thought Connie would be attending with Ted, but they've broken up. Phil introduces the two women; John excitedly wonders if they'll fight for Phil's love, but instead, they compare notes. Connie downplays the seriousness of their relationship, but Phil drunkenly relishes in it.
At the same party, Elly and Connie chat. Connie says she has no intention of messing up Phil and Georgia's relationship, and tells Elly she's planning on moving in order to get away from Ted. She's been offered a job in Thunder Bay. Elly is surprised and asks about Lawrence; Connie admits she hasn't told him yet.
Phil and Georgia drive home; he tries to goad her into admitting she was jealous of Connie, but she doesn't take the bait.
Later, John gets a visit from his former assistant Jean and her baby girl, Brittany, at work. On the surface, John appears thoughtful and concerned. Jean admits she's overwhelmed. She says she hates having to wake up every three hours to feed Brittany awhile her husband sleeps. John smugly thoughtballoons, "Another argument for breastfeeding." Later, he tells Elly about the visit. She asks what Brittany looked like. John says," All babies look alike to me; ask me to describe her when she's 16."
Lawrence finds out that he's moving through an answering machine message. He tells Mike and both boys are upset. Mike suggests to John that Lawrence move in with them*
Lawrence apparently gets over the drama quickly enough, and soon he's telling Mike about how cool the townhouse they're moving to is going to be, and how moving is going to be "neat." Mike wonders how hard the move is going to be on him.
Connie sells the house, and she and Lawrence leave for good.
School starts, and Lizzie is beginning kindergarten. Elly is thrilled to have both kids in school, but John doesn't get it. Elly takes Lizzie to school during the first day, and marvels at the single teacher in charge of a room of 25 six year olds. The teacher, Miss Lyon, shows Lizzie her shelf and hanger for her coat, and gives her a name tag. Elly sighs that her baby is now part of the system.
Elly's time alone is short-lived, as Annie invites herself over. Her two boys quickly make a mess and throw a tantrum.
Mike tells Elly that people are moving into Connie's old house, and convinces her to come out with him by saying that she can check out their furniture. The family in question is the Enjos. Mike is excited to see two kids, and is about the point this out to Elly. Elly, presumably afraid that he's going to point out their ethnicity instead, keeps interrupting and shushing him.**
Carol introduces herself and Keith to Elly. She's very thoughtful and pleasant. Elly makes muffins to bring over to the new family. Dawn and Elizabeth are fast friends. Mike and Brian spend some time together, but seem to butt heads quickly.
After meeting the new family, Mike asks Elly about their ethnicity. Brian, Elly tells him, is "Japanese-Canadian." She tells Mike that he is "Anglo-Dutch Canadian." Mike is excited to her this, saying, "I thought I was just a regular kid."***
Mike starts school with new friend Brian Enjo at his side. A gym teacher (I think Mr. Warren) makes himself known as an adversary. Brian tells Mike that he's not good at phys ed stuff; he prefers academics.
Later, Mike is actually pleasant to his sister; he asks how her day at school was, and then quietly listens to her sing a new song she learned.
Meanwhile, Elly catches up with Connie on the phone, finding out that Ted showed up on her doorstep wanting to get married. Connie refused. Ted is upset, and turns to John for advice. John, displaying some in-character obliviousness, points out that Ted hurt her--he said some mean, humiliating things to her. Ted says, geez! He was just kidding!
Drama with Deanna! Mike teases Deanna at school--he makes mean comments to her after she gets her ears pierced, and she decides she's never going to talk to him again. He tries to ask her if she's going to the Halloween dance, which Elly is chaperoning, but she ignores him. He pretends not to care, but clearly does.
Mike and friends decide to go with themed costumes to the dance. Gordon, some kid I assume to be Darryl Smythe, and Brian are all mad scientists, and Mike is their experiment—a “disembodied” head on a table. His initial attempts at creating the costume "need work," according to John, who helps out. The new custom is detailed and creative, but Elly is concerned about how Mike will ear and walk through doors.
At the dance itself, Elly humiliates Mike by showing up dressed as a clown. Mike and Deanna (dressed as a flower) win a costume contest, and are forced by the gym teacher (dressed as superman) to dance together. Deanna appears to be uncomfortable, but Mike is thrilled.
As autumn gets colder and colder, Mike starts hockey practice. Elly attends practices and offers unsolicited advice. During this sequence, it's revealed that, in addition to hockey, Mike also takes swimming and music (trumpet, presumably) lessons, and is in the "computer club." Elizabeth has started taking figure skating, and also has art class and swimming lessons.
Ted visits John as a patient, complaining of jaw pain. John suspects the cause of it is teeth grinding at night. Ted confesses that he's been having trouble eating and sleeping with Connie gone. John offers advice, and tells Ted that he has his chance with Connie and it's over, and he's only interested in women he can't have. Ted says that John's a dentist, not a psychiatrist. Ted asks the Pattersons to talk to Connie on his behalf. Elly makes a half-assed attempt.
When Mike and Liz are at school, Annie and her children continue to rely on Elly, asking for drives downtown when Elly goes to work. Elly is "frazzled" by Richard and Christopher’s behavior, saying that Annie confuses "demolition with creativity." At work, Elly stresses out over budget cuts. She brings her work home with her, making posters for the Christmas events, and typing articles.
Elly, ever the pushover, drives Annie and her kids downtown again. Annie reveals that she's pregnant again. She shows some self-awareness by joking that Elly and John might want to build a bigger fence now that they'll have another kid.
Christmas approaches. Mike gets a letter from Lawrence saying that he'll be visiting. Elly prepares for a visit from her mom and dad, worried about how much older they're getting. Elizabeth gets to be the star (that is, the star of Bethlehem) in her school play. She loses the batteries to the flashlight moments before the play begins, and John gives up the batteries out his enormous weird recorder-thing to save the day.
Jim and Marion arrive at the airport. Jim good natured teases Mike and Liz, and Elly and Marion butt heads. Elly excitedly prepares for the holiday, listing off all the people who will be at their house on the 25th--Phil, Georgia, Connie, Lawrence, Annie, Steve, and their kids, Mrs. Baird, and maybe Connie's folks. John counters Elly's enthusiasm with fears of absolute chaos.
Connie arrives with Lawrence and reveals to Elly that she's in love, and not with Ted. Unfortunately, John invited Ted to the event, and he tries to talk to her.
Days later, John comes home from work, and tells Elly that Ted just married his secretary. Elly gossips with her mom about the entire situation.
Jim gets antsy and bored at the Pattersons', and decides to fix as many things as he can. He goes into the attic to check the insulation, and his foot goes straight through the floor into the ceiling in Lizzie's room. John's upset afterwards. Mike teases Lizzie about the boogiemen that will crawl into her room, and John makes him sleep in her room. Mike's fears get the best of him, and he ends up sleeping in the tub that night. Jim scolds himself for being so dumb, but Marion convinces him that he was just trying to help.
After Jim and Marion leave, John finds out that his assistant just gave her two week notice. Elly suggests that he contact Jean and ask her to come back. John says that Jean wanted to be a full-time stay-at-home mom; how can he ask her to return to work? Elly says, "trust me." Jean does take John up on his offer, but unfortunately, isn't able to start immediately. John talks Elly into working in her stead.
Mike struggles in school. He does poorly on a math test he didn't study for, and John has to tutor him.
Elly starts working afternoons at the dental clinic, and the kids stay with Annie. Work hijinx ensue--Elly messes us using the chair, John calls her a klutz, and Elly pouts when John doesn't say "please" once. Elly is exhausted with the schedule, and John smugly tells her that she's just not used to working.
Mike goes to Annie's house, but leaves to be at the Pattermanse alone. He proudly announces to Gordon that, as a latch-key kid, he's joined the ranks of the "deprived." Elly asks him to help out around the house while he's there alone--set the table and cut some carrots. Mike initially refuses****, but realizes that his parents with will call him lazy and spoiled if he doesn't, and decides to help out.
We meet Ted's new wife--a rather mousy brunette named Irene. We learn that she was his assistant for 12 years. Elly, suspecting that Ted was dating Irene while also seeing Connie, insults her by calling her "the other woman." She stresses out about her faux pas, but when she goes to apologize, Irene doesn't even remember the remark.
Lizzie's school has an Easter bake sale, and she volunteers Elly to not only bake sweets, but also help out the day of. Elly begrudgingly agrees, and feels ridiculous in her Easter bonnet "hawking cookies." She wonders why she's doing this, but remembers when Liz says, 'Thanks, Mommy!" and gives her a hug.
Mike's trumpet lessons make another appearance. Phil tries to encourage him by playing a tape on Wynton Marsalis. Unfortunately, hearing the great musician just frustrates Mike more, knowing he'll never be that good. Phil complains about teaching, but admits it does have it's rewards--sometimes, somebody learns something.
Lizzie tries to teach Farley some tricks. John helps, and soon the dog is able to obey four commands.
Jean returns to the dental clinic.
Elly finds out that a poem she wrote has been published in Upper Crust Magazine. The appearance inspires her to write more. Her poetry appears to be domestic in theme; one poem is called "Ode to a Dishwasher." John is excited for her but wary--why does she need outside fulfillment? What's wrong with being Mrs. Dr. John Patterson?
As summer approaches, Elly performs her annual ritual of removing Mike from the TV and forcing him to play outside. Mike gets around this “punishment” by going over to the Enjos' house. Brian shows off his dad's model train set in the basement. Mike finds this set-up really cool, and tells John about it. "It must be nice to have a dad who's interesting!" he says.
Elly's coworkers ask her to read her poem at an "annual dinner" after the original speaker cancels. Elly's nervous, but excited, and becomes even more excited when she sees the beautiful old building she'll be reading in. She learns that it's being torn down soon in order to build a sports arena. She decides to start a campaign to save the old building--she writes letters to the editor, starts a petition, and talks about organizing a protest. During her poetry reading, she brings up her campaign to save the building. A local radio DJ asks her to be a guest on his show, and she does. Unfortunately, the show ends up being pre-empted for baseball highlights.
Lizzie graduates kindergarten.
Phil visits. He and John plan a canoe trip to Parry Sound. Elly seems surprised by these plans, and asks them if they're planning on taking a guide along. Phil insists he knows the area, as he's been there before.
Annie gives birth to her third child, a little girl. Elly visits her at the hospital, but Annie is upset. Her baby has six fingers on each hand. Steve doesn't mind, but Annie is convinced that the extra fingers are the results of a failure on her part. The boys are excited about the baby, and her fingers. Lizzie begs Elly for a new baby.
Liz is referred to as both Lizzie and Elizabeth in this book.
Elly is still cute and young-looking. Her nose is normal-sized, and she mostly wears her hair in a loose ponytail, and even down in a few strips. When she dresses up for her poetry reading, she wears a simple sweater and skirt. However, hints of her future frumpiness come out—she wears an enormous shapeless nightgown to bed, even in the late summer. Early in the book, she’s shown wearing the same outfit that her mother later years during her visit.
Mike and Lizzie smack, chomp, slurp, etc for four panels, and then ask Elly if Queen Elizabeth would be allowed to eat corn on the cob. Mike has tacos dinner at the Enjos. He and Brian chomp, smack, slurp, etc. Brian says this is his favorite meal since there’s no fork or knife. Keith adds, “and no manners either.”
Milborough multi-culti scene:
The Enjos move in.
Don’t Bother Me While I’m Being a Grown-up:
Elly snaps at Mike twice to not bug her while she’s working. Later, while having a conversation with Annie about how important being a mom is, she snaps at Lizzie for bugging her while she’s trying to have a conversation.
What’s in the Crawl Space?
Presumably, all the junk that Connie brings over while moving—snowshoes, books, a punch bowl and other odd and ends.
Retconning Be Damned!
Connie, on the eve of her move, excitedly tells Elly how this is the first things she’s ever done by herself, as a grown-up. She says she’s spend her entire life letting other makes decisions for me, and now that’s changing. This goes against the in-strip retconning about Connie living in Central America, and her online bio.
*I like that, in this strip, there’s no gobsmacked look in the final panel. In fact, there's no gobscmaked looks anywhere in this collection. You know if this strip were rewritten today featuring Dee and Merrie, Dee would be bug-eyed and agog in the final panel—Well, why can’t he move in? No arguing with that!
**I don't get why this is such a problem. Certainly, Dawn and Brian know that they're Japanese. And Elly has no problem later talking about their ethnicity when they are not around. Why is it such a faux pax to discuss their background in front of them? Just an insistence of proving she's totally "colorblind"?
***Ah. One of my biggest pet peeves in discussions of race is that there is no white culture or that it’s “ordinary”, which is usually just another way of saying that white culture is completely dominant; it's the omni-culture. It's so normalized that OF COURSE Mike, as a white, Western European, Christian child, sees himself as a “regular” person. It's the people who are marked different (such as the Enjos) that have a "culture."
Also--someone pointed out in the Anthony's bio thread that he is also identified as Dutch and Anglo in Lives Behind the Lines. Therefore, Liz truly has married one of her own. No ethnics like that nasty Mira in her family!
****Mike struggles notably with peeling the carrots. Yet, later, he expects his own significantly younger children to peel carrots with no problems.