Recurring characters introduced:
- Ed, Mrs Baird’s “boyfriend”
- Dirk Dagger, lead guitarist of “The Emetix”, Molly’s boyfriend: he once mooned an audience in Oakville and is into heavy metal, astral projection and ten pin bowling
- the Kennedys, presumably neighbours on whom John spied in their outhouse when he was a child
- Lou, who helps rescue John from the industrial waste bin
- Georgia’s Uncle Bert, who gives the toast to the bride at her wedding
- Mrs Kinney / Miss Bell, Liz’s Grade 2 teacher
- Mr Bergan / Mr Warren, Mike’s Grade 6 teacher
- dental patients Jeffrey and Melissa
- the car salesman at Import Motors
- Mrs Scott (unseen) who picks up Mike and Liz to take them to the “Y” after school on nights when Elly works late
- Fran, another “hockey mom” who sits with Elly in the bleachers five hours a week at Mike’s practices
- Roy, one of the workmen who remodels the kitchen
- Elly and Phil fought until they were in their twenties
- Phil and Georgia’s wedding reception was at Peppi’s Banquet Hall
- Jim is 65 at the time of Phil and Georgia’s wedding in the summer of 1987, so should now be 86
- John looks forward to Marian’s incredible baking each time she comes to visit
- Mike is in Grade 6 (aged 11 at the beginning of the collection and 12 by the end – he has a birthday in the spring of 1988)
- Liz is in Grade 2 (said to be aged 7 in strips from spring 1988)
- Mrs Baird is 83 and Ed is 86
- Mike was nicknamed “Pinky” for two years at school after Elly washed his undershorts with the red drapes
- John’s grandpa used to say that a woman should provide heat in the winter and shade in the summer
After a few strips about sibling rivalry, the stories pick up with Mike in a tree, peering into Molly’s bedroom window. He’s soon joined by Gord, Brian and Darryl, but after seeing nothing more exciting than Molly standing up, stretching and closing the curtains, the others blame Mike for the lack of entertainment. Molly catches Mike as the boys jump down from the tree and tells John, who grounds him for two weeks. While Mike mopes about his punishment, Brian says that, if he could relive the other night, he’d never have looked in Molly’s room; Mike thinks that he’d have done the same thing but not been caught.
Phil and Georgia’s wedding happens at last, with Elizabeth as their flower girl and Mike as an usher. John plans to save time by taking garbage to the dump on the way, but Elly makes him drop her and the kids off at the church first. He spies an industrial waste bin in an alley and decides to save time by throwing the garbage in it, except his watch flies off and into the bin as well. He climbs in to find it and gets stuck, but makes it to the church just in time for the ceremony, even though he reeks of garbage.
Georgia has been so busy organizing and overseeing all the arrangements for the ceremony that she hasn’t had time to get nervous. Marian says she knows she will cry during the ceremony, but all every parent wants is to see their children grown up, independent and settled; Jim thought-bubbles that he and Marian can now blow the wad and travel. Phil waits at the altar (white single-breasted dinner jacket, grey trousers and black bow tie), panicking about the step they’re taking, but when he sees Georgia in her wedding dress, he knows this is the right thing to do. Elly and Marian sniff through the vows and Jim blows his nose with a giant “WHONKK!” During the toast to the bride, Elizabeth asks who is writing down notes about her childhood to embarrass her at her wedding.
There are plenty of different variations on love stories this autumn: Elly tries to talk to Molly and learns that her boyfriend hasn’t called or written since she moved. Elly tells Connie about her high school crush: “I couldn’t sleep or eat – all I could do was think about him. Day and night he was on my mind. I wrote him poetry, I composed songs…”, causing her to fail math. When Elly visits Mrs Baird and joins her for bingo night, she learns that Mrs Baird, aged 83, has fallen for Ed, a fellow nursing home resident.
Mrs Baird sweetly says that it’s wonderful to have a crush on someone and that she still feels all the same rush, intrigue and excitement she felt when she was 20. Elly tells Annie the news and Annie says that she “guesses” she considers herself in love, but after ten years of marriage and three kids there’s not much to jump up and down about and love to her has become sort of a dial tone hum. Gayle babysits while John takes Elly out on a date as they remember the reasons they fell in love. Soon after Elly and Ed are introduced and Mrs Baird confesses that she worries that his children might not want the two of them to marry, but Ed says, “Who cares!!!...If we want to be partners, we will be.”
Mike still pesters Elly while she’s working, so she tells him that he’s old enough to make his own food. She shows him where everything is and asks what could possibly be easier; “Watching you do it,” he replies. Elly and John say that Mike is “turning into one of them”: a teenager. Elly pries Mike away from his Walkman long enough to tell him that she and John are having a hard time dealing with his behaviour but he doesn’t appear to change.
Mike, dressed as a bug, accompanies a Raggedy Ann-costumed Liz for Hallowe’en, but the green food dye he used on his face won’t wash off. Elly refuses to let him stay home and he goes to school the next morning and risks being called “Avocado-Head” for the rest of his life. Although he manages to scrub more of the colour off, he is still greenish – he has the flu. Elly doubts whether he still needs her to stay home, and is cheered when he comes to check if she’s still there.
John is feeling in a rut at work and asks Ted what he should do to break the cycle of getting up, going to work, going home, getting up…Ted tells him not to go home and encourages John to get some after hours recreation: “nudge, nudge”, offering to introduce John to someone. Ted says that his wife suspects that he messes around, but the trick is not to let her know for sure. Something about Ted’s comments makes John think about his health, good job, wonderful home, two great kids, loving wife – but he wants more, and he drops by Import Motors and takes an Afterburner 600 XZ (fuel-injected with Turbo V6 and Flammbutz front strut suspension) convertible for a spin. John trades in his sedan and takes out a loan from the bank to buy the car (plus the lifestyle: tweed cap, driving gloves, red cashmere scarf) Elly calls “the other woman”. When he shows Ted his purchase, he finds out that Irene has left Ted. John is unsympathetic and tells Ted that he was asking for it; Ted defends his behaviour by saying that none of the other women meant anything. Connie is unsurprised that Ted continued seeing other women, as Irene was the other woman when Connie was engaged to Ted.
As soon as the weather turns bad, John reneges on his promise to Elly and goes to take her car to work, leaving her with an impractical sports car, explaining to her, “Whose job is more important – yours or mine?” Elly makes him take a taxi only to ditch her car in the blizzard. A police officer helps her out but tells her that she’ll have to leave her car until the weather clears – at least she is near home and manages to get as far as Connie’s, where they break out a bottle of wine and relax, unlikely to see their husbands and kids for hours. The blizzard intensifies and the power goes out; Greg and John check into a hotel and the kids are stuck at school, but the storm breaks before they have to spend the night. They are taken home on the buses and curl up with Elly and Farley in front of the fireplace.
Elly gets a first-hand look at step-parenting when Molly starts dating Dirk Dagger, lead guitarist of The Emetix and Molly and Connie clash over curfews. Gayle seems sweet, but quiet, and she tells Elly that maybe she’s living her life all wrong because no one pays her any attention. Elly braids her hair and gives her a red sweater to make her feel better about herself, only for Elizabeth to sulk that Elly wasn’t paying attention to her while she helped Gayle. Connie and Elly agree that some day their kids will appreciate them and know how much their parents did for them because someday they’ll have children of their own.
The kids are growing up: Elizabeth loses her first tooth but swallows it before the tooth fairy can visit. Mike has six guests for a sleepover for his twelfth birthday party and shortly afterwards, while reading a book called “Puberty and You”, is caught by Elizabeth as he looks for armpit hairs. John has a talk with Mike about adolescence and says that he was too busy noticing the changes happening to girls to pay attention to his own puberty.
Elizabeth is also old enough to go to the park unsupervised, but John offers to collect her since Elly is already busy getting dinner ready. He joins Elizabeth on the swings and then they talk about what a beautiful day it is. Liz says they should be “‘specially thankful” on beautiful happy days because someone somewhere is having a sad one. They return to find Elly hanging up the phone: Ed has just called to let her know that Thelma Baird died in her sleep last night. She left Elly a cedar chest which she had bought in China. Elly helps organize the funeral and wonders why she and the other helpers didn’t do more for her when Thelma was alive. Elly continues to see Ed even after the funeral, taking him for walks, giving him hugs, inviting him for dinner, listening to his memories – he says that he and Thelma were talking about getting married – and taking him to the cemetery to visit Thelma, who is buried next to her late husband. Ed notes that he will be buried one day next to his late wife and notes that he never had a complicated love life, so he hopes that the four of them can sort things out in the next world.
After some persuasion from Elly, and a reminder that she didn’t flinch when he bought an expensive sports car, John agrees to remodel the kitchen. Steve claims all the old cupboards and appliances and Annie is fed up with his pack rat habits, but knows that he will leave if she gets it hauled away. The remodelling project also includes knocking down a wall to extend the dining room and adding a sun room. Greg and Connie are drafted in to help move the fridge when it arrives a day early, and Phil takes a look at the chaos and is relieved that he and Georgia are renting. Mike and Brian use the fridge box to make a fort and exclude Liz and Dawn; Dawn swears that she will never have a boyfriend until boys grow up and the collection ends with Liz explaining that they never do.
- Liz (aged 7) writes John a “perstripshun” for two hugs to make him feel better
- Richard (aged 5-ish) has “banilla” ice cream
- the only on-going housekeeping strips are just about the mess in Michael’s room; Elly at this age has outside interests and a job and doesn’t spend all her time nagging the family to clean or martyring herself about the clutter
- in early spring 1988, Richard and Leah escape from Annie’s garden, shed their clothing down to their underwear and race down the street, so it isn't just the Pattersons who run around naked outside!
- Mrs Kinney, Liz’s Grade 2 teacher (page 26) has been renamed Miss Bell by page 74
- Mike's Grade 6 teacher, Mr Bergan (named but not seen on page 33, and seen but not named on pages 25 and 49) turns into Mr Warren (seen *and* named on pages 73-75) – this Mr Warren is different from Mr Warren who was Mike's gym teacher two years earlier