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Collection Recap: Things Are Looking Up... (1991-92)

The collection where "marrying your high school sweetheart one day" is introduced.

Recurring character introduced:
Incidental characters:
  • Mrs Duncan, a Manitoba resident whose lipstick is used to “improve” Hermione the pig’s costume at the annual hog-dressing contest
  • Luccia (previously mentioned), Blair and Darryl, classmates of Liz who already have B.O. shirts; other named classmates are James, Chris, Dana, Jeff, Lesley, Stanley, Alanna, Kristin, Glenn and Mark
  • Bob and Lois, a couple at Mike and Gord’s school
  • Uncle Tony, who got married sometime during 1991 and the Pattersons attended the wedding in Montreal sometime between July and Mike’s trip to Winnipeg later that summer
  • Roxi from Handihelp “The Company that Cares”, one of the prospective weekly housekeepers Elly interviews to help out her parents
  • Mrs Lloyd, the local lady Elly hires to help her parents
  • dental patients Mrs Dilbutt, Mrs Podd-Willis
  • Artie, Mike’s friend with a valid driver’s license
  • Mr Bullard, Phil and Georgia’s neighbour, and Porker, his dog
  • Mr Carey, Mike driving instructor
  • Jason Finkbeiner, Martha’s crush
Biographical information:
  • Farley is 9 and Liz wishes that she could stop time because she sees that he is getting old and tired and knows he won’t live forever; in a sweet panel, she stops throwing the ball for Farley and just sits and strokes him while he rests.
  • Elly’s friends throw her an “Over the Hill” 40th birthday party at the end of August 1991, but cancel the stripper when she says that she wants to accept her birthday with dignity and reserve.
  • By the autumn of 1991 Elizabeth had started in Grade 6 (which usually happens aged 11-12, except that she was 9 ½ the previous February and 9 in July 1990), as one of her teachers observes the behaviour of Liz and her friends ogling boys and wonders what happened to all the little grade 5 girls who left last summer.
  • Mike and Gord are both 15, with Mike turning 16 in the spring of 1992 – he even says that he was born April 28, 1976.
  • Mike has a poster for The Emetix in his bedroom (Dirk Dagger, the lead singer, was Lawrence’s stepsister Molly’s boyfriend at one time)
  • April has her first birthday
  • Phil has been too busy teaching extra courses to visit lately and is being kept up at night by his neighbour’s dog barking – he and other neighbours buy the dog and have him sent out to the country.
With Fiona gone, Mike gets volunteered to babysit April when John takes Elly out for a nice meal and Liz goes to Dawn’s. He’s not happy about it, but is rewarded when April smiles for the first time – and at him!
 
Although we’ve never actually seen them introduced, Elly recognizes a rollerblading Martha and comments to John that Martha’s spandex outfit is dangerous (side note: Martha is wearing a helmet, knee and elbow pads, so takes her safety seriously). Elly observes Martha flirting with Mike and worries that they are getting too friendly. John points out that they’re just kids but Elly accepts a four-week stay at Uncle Danny’s farm on Mike’s behalf (confusingly, in the very next panel she tells Mike that he’s had a ticket for over a month and has known about the trip since last Christmas). John suggests a compromise: the trip could be called off if Mike found a good summer job before July 15. Fiona had just gone into partnership with the owner of Parkside Lunch & Billiards, but Mike’s dream of getting a job there is crushed by John when he points out the very valid flaws of working there: a three-block walk from the bus in a bad neighbourhood, they serve liquor, Fiona doesn’t have the best reputation and Mike probably wouldn’t get paid.
 
Mike writes to Martha regularly during his time in Manitoba, but doesn’t hear back. His final letter to her, which he is unable to send, tells her how hurt he has been by the lack of a letter or even a phone call from her. Gord approaches Martha on Mike’s behalf and she says that she was intimidated by the quality of Mike’s writing and wasn’t confident enough to write back, so Mike raced over to apologize for doubting her.
 
Elly returns to work after nearly six months, thinking that it’s better to feel guilty than go insane staying home all day. She tries to bring April with her, but it doesn’t work out, so she arranges for April to be babysat by Annie.
 
Elizabeth, still wearing black overalls, is caught trying to sneak out of the house wearing make-up to school. She is still trying to fit in by any means necessary and is desperate to get a Boston Original shirt after Candace tells her that everyone is wearing them. John buys her one to improve her confidence – Elly isn’t impressed by the $40 price tag, although in the previous strip it’s shown that Mike already has one. When Elizabeth sees a teething April sucking her thumb in preference to a pacifier, she knows why April does it: thumbs taste better. Elly and John begin to worry that Liz is still sucking her thumb and John fits her with an appliance, leaving her temporarily with a lisp. She is teased at school but consoled when her wheelchair-bound teacher, Miss Edwards, encourages her to talk to her friends and satisfy their curiosity about the appliance. Liz and her friends speculate about Miss Edwards’ personal life and Elly is saddened that Liz turns to her teacher and not her mother when she needs a confidante.
 
Three years on and Gord is still lusting for Allyson Creemore, who sensibly pretends he doesn’t exist. He says that he’s 15 and has never been out with a girl and Mike points out that neither have Lawrence nor Brian. Gord replies that they don’t want to, but he does. Knowing that Gord will never be able to ask out Allyson without having some practice, Mike suggests that Gord try things out on Tracey first and Gord, who now has his “redneck” hat on almost all the time, asks Tracey to a movie. Gord suddenly finds himself with a date and accuses Mike of causing a problem, saying that he’s known Tracey for years, that she’s like a sister and that their parents hang out together. Mike and Martha double-date with Gord and Tracey: Gord complains to Mike that there aren’t any fireworks and that being out with Tracey is like being out with Mike; Tracey tells Martha that she’s known Gord since she was 6 and just wanted to have a boyfriend like everyone else. Gord and Tracey walk home through the snow and decide that they like each other a lot and are best friends, but that a relationship couldn’t be right between them because it’s too easy.
 
Liz has her appliance removed in early 1992. Not long afterwards, an unnamed boy calls her at home for the first time and they talk for half an hour, piquing Elly's curiosity.
 
Elly gets fed up with her old car and decides to trade it in for something new, only for Mike to remind his parents that he gets his learner’s permit in three months. She picks up the car from Eastgate Auto despite the salesman assuming that John would be the one buying it. Mike sits in the new car and imagines that it’s his. Gord joins him, getting in the driver’s seat, starting the engine and putting the car in gear, then hitting the gas accidentally when the car starts to roll down the driveway, sending it across the street and into the Enjos’ garbage. The only damage is a bent license plate.  Mike is grounded for two weeks and Elly tells Gord’s parents. Gord tells Mike that his father usually hits first and talks later, so hides in the Pattersons’ garage instead of going home. John finds him and brings him inside and Elly thinks that Gord could use a friend. She drives him home and looks at his house, wondering what’s going to happen.  The next day Gord turns up at school with a black eye and tells everyone that he fell off the porch while taking down the Christmas lights. Mike knows that the Mayes family didn’t have lights this year. Brian points out that, no matter what happened, they have to believe Gord when he tells them that he fell because that’s the way Gord has chosen to deal with it. Mike’s initial attempt to get Gord to open up fails, but he does eventually confess to Mike that his father had hit him but had cried about it afterwards.
 
Liz drops her bra on the floor while carrying a load of laundry and Mike can’t stop teasing her, so she puts a rock in his jock strap and flings it over the telephone lines. Liz confides in Miss Edwards, who tells her that Mike is being a typical big brother and says that her sister used to put things out of her reach and her brother once left her in a swing and charged his friends to ride in her wheelchair.
 
April starts walking in the spring of 1992, letting go of a table and taking tentative steps into John’s open arms. Elly takes Liz and April to Vancouver for spring break, leaving John behind to keep an eye on Mike. Marian has started walking with a cane after her medication leaves her feeling a bit dizzy and Elly is saddened to see how frail her mother has become.  Jim says that Marian is becoming forgetful. Elly tells Jim how worried she is about their living in the big house, and asks him to consider moving to Ontario to be closer to her and to Phil and to be part of their lives. Jim says that they’ve lived in their home for over forty years and aren’t about to move now, so Elly finds a local lady who can visit twice a week to help out.
 
Elly’s comments set her parents thinking and they decide to downsize, still in the Vancouver area, and invite Elly and Phil to come out during the summer to help them go through forty years of stuff. They eventually buy a condo after deciding that they weren’t yet ready for a seniors’ residence. Elly and Phil start to fight over who gets what: both want the pump organ.
 
Mike turns 16 and gets his learner’s permit. He’s convinced he’s a much better driver than he really is, and has only been able to think and talk about cars for months, to the point he can’t quite remember Martha’s name. Martha, meanwhile, has a new interest of her own: Jason Finkbeiner, and dumps Mike moments before his driver’s test. Mike is devastated, not so much because he has lost Martha, but because he always thought he’d be the one to dump her. Unable to concentrate, he fails his driver’s test. John consoles him by saying that he’d also failed on his first attempt after bragging to everyone that he was going to ace it.
 
Recurring themes
Those young’uns today… Elly sees Martha in spandex rollerblading gear and describes the outfit as dangerous; she also says that, when she was young, she never flirted or used body language like Martha uses with Mike.
 
Y’all come back now, y’hear? – Everyone in Manitoba – except Laura, who just speaks FOOBteen – speaks “hick”. Even Mike picks up the local dialect during his four weeks.  (see below)
 
Watch your language –Mike says that he’s “doing so good” at driving and Elly corrects his grammar and tells him that, “it doesn’t matter how much you know or what you can do…if your language is incorrect, you sound poorly educated.” (see above)
 
Flapping – After being told by John that she’s only as old as she feels, Elly feels her rear end and it flaps in response.
 
Ageing – Elly tells John that what she likes best about the park is watching all the funny-looking people go by, and thinks it’s a riot to see an elderly couple walking close together, holding hands and obviously in love at their age. John says he wishes it could be them someday and Elly looks gobsmacked.
 
Sticky-outy tongue laughing – to the best of my knowledge, Mike is the first to use it after Gord makes a silly joke (on the middle of page 65 for those who want to see it!) about giving an arm, teeth, blood, kidney, etc., to date Allyson, then saying that he’d be letting Allyson get to know him a little bit at a time. There are three further examples when Mike is teasing Liz about her bra.
 
Foreshadowing
Mike's writing is so brilliant that Martha is intimidated to write to him.

Elly wishes that Liz's school would opt for uniforms.
 
Gord points out that neither Lawrence nor Brian want to date girls.
 
Inconsistencies
April is shown to be sitting up, crawling and feeding herself dog food in a strip from August 1991, when she would be about five months old, but strips run shortly after the following Hallowe’en have her just learning to sit up and Elly commenting that April will be crawling soon: she finally begins to crawl between Christmas 1991 and New Year’s 1992.
 
Gord says that he’s 15, which means that he’s the same age as Mike despite having been a year older when he was introduced originally.
 
Miss Edwards tells Liz about her siblings teasing her about her wheelchair when they were all children, but her on-line bio says that she was in a motorcycle accident at the age of sixteen, which makes it unlikely that her brother would put her in a swing and leave her there.
 
John has to close the clinic early when the water is turned off, so picks up April from Annie’s and spends time playing with her and thinking that the title “Daddy” was better than all his honours, doctorates and degrees, and tells Mike it was neat to play with her.  (I chose this as an inconsistency because of the way April gets ignored or criticized these days.)
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  • 35 comments

  • Father's Day 2021

    The Father's Day strip that reminds us that all the kids see when they look at John is an ATM on legs. Synopsis: We see a typical Father's Day in…

  • Saturday, 19 June 2021

    The ne where Mike tries to bribe Liz with pocket change. Panel 1: Liz sulks because Mike changes plans on her mid-stream because she's sort of…

  • It Better End Soon: Happy F Day

    This week's pandering session is all about how great Sarah's dad is. When I was five years old, my older sister Emma and I were members of the…