When Liz and Anthony break up and he confesses that he had been wanting to go out with Candace for the last few weeks, Candace and Anthony have half a date before she dumps him, Mike and Rhetta break up for the first time and Mike asks Weed to move in with him. The good side is that this collection features the very sweet, simple and small wedding of Gord and Tracey, who, unlike any of their peers in the future, really are starting married life with very little and working as hard as they can without complaint.
Recurring characters introduced:
- Dr Schell, Edgar’s vet at South Shore Veterinary Clinic
- Matt Landry, the gorgeous Grade 12 guy and a friend of Brian’s who drives Liz and Dawn to school one morning
- Miss Vi Carlos, April’s pre-kindergarten teacher, who has a big honker and nose hair (there is also a nameless teaching assistant)
- Ryan, one of the kids in pre-kindergarten
- Jodi and Kit, the girls who rent the other apartment from Mrs Dingle and share the kitchen with Mike and Weed
- dental patients Brandi (and her mother) and Dierdre, plus some unnamed guy who misses his appointment and expects to be fit in immediately
- Mike returns to Megafood for his summer job and Lawrence works at Lakeside Nursery.
- Elly turns 45 (for real this time)
- Tracey and Gord live together before their wedding and no one comments about whether or not this is appropriate or unusual.
- April starts pre-kindergarten, Liz starts high school and Mike returns to London for his second year of college
- April and Becky are best friends
- Mrs Dingle’s place is a co-op on 11th. Mike and Weed’s place, the upstairs flat, is a furnished two-bedroom apartment with a shared kitchen. There’s a deli across the street, paid parking, and laundry facilities in the basement.
- April gets to be a cowboy for Hallowe’en after her disappointment the previous year, takes her costume to bed in case she dreams about horses, tries to ride Edgar (and Liz) and is desperate for a horse of her own.
- Mike rings in New Year 1996 with Gord and Tracey, Lawrence, Weed and Brian
- Candace has an older brother
- Liz teaches April downhill skiing
Edgar is still a challenge when it comes to puppy training, leading Elly to reminisce about how much easier Farley had been. Liz puts her straight with a reminder about how Farley was always getting into trouble, making messes and running away. April, peeling wallpaper off the wall around the corner, breathes a sigh of relief when she hears Elly tells Liz that mothers tend to forget all the bad behaviour and just remember the good. Edgar eventually learns to ring the doorbell when he wants in, so John installs a second doorbell inside the house so Edgar can ring when he wants out…just for Edgar to realize that they’ll open the door if he barks. Sera and Edgar both take that special trip to the vet.
Gord takes over Ray Daly’s Garage, Ray having resumed his original name after a brief flirtation with the moniker “Dan Daly”. Tracey is going to manage the garage and do the books while Gord does the rest of the work. John and Elly want to give them a grand opening gift but didn’t know what to do: two weeks later a new sign has been erected: “Gordon’s Garage”. There’s still a lot of work to be done around the site as the Dalys kept everything and the back of the building looks like a landfill. Mike writes a story for the local paper, the Valley Voice, (with Elly peering over his shoulder and editing it for him without being asked). It gets accepted, but edited down to three lines under a large photo of Gord. A local museum takes most of the stuff and most of the rest is sold, leaving Gord with enough money to fix the roof. Mike and Gord head off, arms around each other, talking about how: “When opportunity knocks…don’t knock the opportunity!!”
Brian encourages Gord to think about the wider world and asks if Gord really wants to be tied down; Gord replies that one man’s “tied down” is another man’s “security” and he and Tracey invite the gang to a wedding for the first weekend of September. Gord asks Mike to be his best man. Rhetta thinks it’s “amazing” and Mike is stunned because he never thought Gord and Tracey would be the first to get married, adding that Gord has never really gone out with anyone else. Mike then compares his own situation and says that he’s never dated anyone outside his hometown; Rhetta glares.
The wedding is a small affair, with both the ceremony and reception at Tracey’s parents’ house under a marquee tent, a buffet-style meal in the garden and a single-layered wedding cake. Tracey’s dad is very proud of his lawn and asks the guests to throw grass seed at the couple. Tracey’s parents gave them a cheque and the couple ask Gord’s parents to come sober. Elly double-checks to make sure that best man Mike remembers the ring, which he already has in his pocket. A female minister in robes performs the ceremony and asks God to bless the union, so it is a religious, rather than a civil, ceremony. Gord wears a smart suit and Tracey a simple jacket and skirt combination with minimal jewellery and a hat. Tracey’s mother (an assumption as she is on the bride’s side of the aisle) is spotted dabbing at her eyes with a handkerchief. Gord says that everyone now will be wondering who’s next as all the various guests stare at each other: Lawrence and Ben, Brian and miscellaneous possibly Asian girl, Mike and a smiling Rhetta, Liz (attending a wedding without a date even though she actually has a boyfriend at this point) looking gobsmacked despite having her mouth full, Darryl and a miscellaneous girl in glasses, and Elly on her own looking gobsmacked and potato-nosed.
Gord’s father is seen briefly speaking to Tracey and gives the newlyweds his truck as a wedding present. As they drive off in the decorated truck, cans bouncing behind the Just Married sign on the rear bumper, Gord promises Tracey that one day he’ll take her on a real honeymoon, one day they’ll go to Paris and he’ll take her ‘round the world. Tracey says that she doesn’t need all that: she just needs him to take her home.
April delights in tormenting Liz by going into her older sister’s room, but is really upset that neither of her older siblings want to be friends with her and have their own interests. Elly asks Liz to go a little easier on April and Liz complains that it’s always about April and no one ever takes her side. April is still very clingy and very cautious around water, even resisting going into the bath. She pretends to fall asleep in John’s arms at night because she likes being carried up to bed, and she climbs into Liz’s bed at night. She hears Liz complaining about having nothing to wear, so copies her.
Mike goes out on assignment (to Wrestlemania) with one of the local reporters for the Valley Voice and Elly, Rhetta and the editor all tell him to shave, so he loses the beard and long hair. Rhetta takes Mike shopping for nicer clothes, just as Elly would dress John.
Elly’s friends throw her a surprise party with an Over-The-Hill theme for her 45th birthday and April asks Elly why, if telling lies is wrong, she says she’s only 39. Elly and John take Liz and April and drive to Winnipeg, then fly to Vancouver and back, then drive back to Ontario via the States. Mike, left alone at the house, heads down to the ravine for inspiration when he can’t concentrate on his writing. Rhetta finds him and they talk – he tells her how he lives in a fantasy world half the time. Rhetta encourages him to write about April’s accident and Farley’s death, but although he’s not ready yet, he promises her under Farley’s tree, that he will someday. Farley’s face is suggested in the pattern of branches and leaves above them.
John tells his father about how Elizabeth’s negative behaviour is getting him down and Will laughs with a sticky-outy tongue because John was exactly the same when he was a teenager. Liz, ostensibly still with Anthony, thinks that the highlight of the family trip to Winnipeg was seeing a cute guy at the gar bar in Marathon. Grandma Marian knows what to do to cheer up Liz once the family arrive in Vancouver, and suggests that they go shopping. Elly tells Jim that she misses the West Coast, but doesn’t wish that she stayed. Jim asks why and she says she has several reasons as she watches her daughters bury John in the sand.
Liz and friends start their first year of high school: a new school and new guys. Dawn reminds Liz that perhaps she shouldn’t be so obvious about checking out the Grade 11 and 12 guys when she’s supposed to be dating Anthony. Liz says that she can look, and besides, if Anthony can’t stand a little competition…the spies Anthony talking to another girl and yells at him. Candace’s clothes are a little less provocative now, but Liz is still frumpy and Dawn rarely changes out of her black overalls. Candace's hair is dark and then light a week later.
Liz tells Dawn that she’s thinking of breaking up with Anthony, not because he isn’t nice or anything, but just because he’s so predictable: Anthony proves her point by chasing after the girls and announcing, as he tries to catch his breath, that he’d said he’d be there at 3.15 exactly and he was. Candace and Dawn listen to Liz talk about breaking up with Anthony for several weeks and encourage her to get it over with, but Liz procrastinates. Candace finally offers to tell Anthony on Liz’s behalf so Liz and Dawn watch from around the corner as Candace puts one hand, then both, on Anthony’s arms and presses herself against him as she breaks the bad news. She puts her arms around him as he says that at least he told Liz himself when he broke up with her. Liz reacts jealously to Candace’s behaviour – “She has her arm around my boyfriend?!” – and demands that Candace tell her exactly what she said to Anthony. Candace says that she told him the truth and he felt awful to find out that his girlfriend wanted someone else to tell him he’s history: “Like, that is so low-class!” She adds that Liz really let him down, especially right before the Hallowe’en dance, so she told Anthony he could take her instead.
Liz fumes to Dawn about what a rat Candace turned out to be and Dawn asks what the difference is, since Liz got the freedom she wanted. Liz complains that Candace manipulated her and made her feel like a pawn. She throws a temper tantrum at home, slamming doors and stomping down the stairs. Upon learning what has happened, Elly says that Liz is feeling a combination of guilt, jealousy and embarrassment, and that she owes Anthony an apology so they could work everything out and stay friends. Liz decides instead to ignore both Anthony and Candace, but succeeds only in giving Candace the cold shoulder. Anthony approaches Liz to tell her that he was angry at first at the way she broke up with him, but for the last few weeks they were together, he really wanted to be with Candace anyway, then thanks Liz and calls her amazing for setting it up. Elly lets the topic rest, and rents a movie instead, knowing that her daughter just needs a hug.
Liz skips the Hallowe’en dance and finds out from Dawn that Candace ditched Anthony for a Grade 12 guy halfway through, adding, “You don’t have to wear a costume to be a witch!” Liz approaches Anthony and he says it wasn’t a big deal and it would have been different if it were Liz who dumped him like that because she means something to him. Anthony and Liz decide to stay friends because they can hang out and have fun together, but that both can date other people if they want to.
Mike gets fed up with the on-going pranks pulled at residence (interestingly, he’s not the one doing them this time, just the victim when his bedroom door is stolen) and he finds a 2-bedroom place on 11th Avenue and suggests to Weed that they move out. Weed is uncertain until he sees Jodi and Kit, the girls who will be sharing the kitchen. Elly thinks it’s a good idea for Mike to get away from the pranks and the parties and sends Mike a cheque, telling Liz that if she decides to stay at home after high school, she’ll be writing cheques to her parents.
April is desperate for Christmas to come around and John wakes her one night to take her outside to see the first snowfall, thinking that April makes it magic to see.
Mike comes home for Christmas with a troublesome wisdom tooth. John says that it’s infected, but at least it happened during the holidays. His face is swollen and he has to take antibiotics. He picks up his prescription on the way to see Rhetta and tell her his good news: his grades are good enough that he’ll be able to transfer into the university undergraduate program – second year – so will have four more years of school ahead of him but a degree when he finishes. Rhetta tells him that she can’t wait that long. It’s so hard to have a long-distance relationship, and when he asks her if she’s met someone, she denies it, then changes that to, “Not exactly”. She says that it’s not that she’s serious about anyone else and didn’t go looking for it to happen, she just realized that she needs to see other people and so does Mike. She urges him to say something and he tells her goodbye. He goes home and writes, “That so few words could cut so deeply. / That words alone could so offend. / Cast not aside my love so cheaply. / For wounds of passion seldom mend.”
Mike gets his wisdom teeth out and recovers at home, then pays a visit to Gord and Tracey, who commiserate with him over his recent break-up. He berates himself about whether it happened because of something he did or something he said and Tracey suggests that maybe Mike and Rhetta weren’t meant for each other, smothering a giggle when Mike explodes with, “Don’t tell me that!!” Gord and Tracey set him straight: they were two totally different people and Rhetta wanted to go into business with her dad and stay in the same town for the rest of her life, whereas Mike is a writer and his career could take him anywhere. They share with Mike how busy the garage keeps them, open from 7 until 10 each day, with Gord sometimes working until 12 and Tracey doing the bookwork on the weekends: they never have time to themselves.
Liz’s English teacher assigns a project on failure of communication in Romeo and Juliet. Anthony and Liz invite Dawn to join their project team, but she has already promised to work with Candace. They warn her that Candace will let Dawn do all the work and share the same grade. Dawn says that people change and she has to give Candace the benefit of the doubt; Liz replies that, whenever she doubts Candace, she benefits (Anthony responds with sticky-outy tongue laughter). Liz complains to Elly that Candace is only your friend when she wants something and right now Candace wants to be friends with Dawn. Dawn brushes off Liz to spend time with Candace and bristles when Liz calls Candace insincere, telling Liz that she happens to like Candace…and she wants to meet Candace’s older brother. Liz and Anthony and their project team get 74% and Dawn, Candace and Shawna-Marie get 75% but Candace didn’t help at all as Liz had predicted. Still, Dawn did get to meet Candace’s brother when they used his computer, but didn’t get to talk to him: he hit Candace on the head with his hockey shorts and called her “Flatso”. Anthony suggests that maybe Candace is afraid to be friends or might be afraid to trust people: it depends on what she’s used to.
Elly suggests to a sullen Liz that they go downtown and tries to cheer her up, telling her that whenever she feels depressed, she changes her styles of dress, make-up and hair…Liz interrupts and suggests to Elly that she obviously hasn’t been depressed in ages, then tells Elly that she looks just like she did in the 60’s except for her wrinkles an’ stuff, with her whole “peace and love” look. Elly complains to Connie who tries to put it in perspective by saying that Liz is in a funk and dumping on her mother to lighten her mood. Elly then turns to John to ask him whether he likes her better with long hair or short, and moans that no matter what she does she still looks like a frumpy, middle-aged woman. John abandons his coffee cup and flees from the room instead of responding. Elly goes to the hairdresser for a new look, then changes her mind midway through the haircut. The hairdresser salvages what he can when she demands that she wants her hair changed only by half and wants her to look different but sort of the same: the Ellybun. She shows off to Liz and Anthony how she has shed the ageing hippy look and Liz asks her what she did that for. John teases her about getting implants and winds up with a tuque pulled over his face as he thought-bubbles: “Hell hath no fury like a woman shorn.”
John visits Gord at the garage and looks over the books for him, pointing out where he has let accounts go past due and advising him to collect the money because not everyone will be honest and fair in their dealings. Gord is thinking of putting in some extra gas pumps and a canopy.
Weed gets fed up watching Mike mope over Rhetta and drags him to the Bung & Wattle pub. They find themselves locked out when they stagger home, as both left their keys in the house. Kit’s away, so they can’t bang on her window, and Mike decides to climb a tree and try to get in through the bathroom window. Mrs Dingle thinks she hears burglars and almost clobbers Mike with a lamp as he sneaks in. She threatens both boys into promising never to break her house rules again. Weed congratulates Mike on getting back into circulation and socializing again after a successful night out. Mike agrees that it’s time to look to the future and stop clinging to the past, then sits down at the computer and begins to write to Rhetta.
Recurring themes / This strip conserves punchlines
I don’t understand this modern technology stuff: Elly pays for her groceries by cheque even though there is clearly an Interac card PIN reader next to the till. Elly can’t figure out why Liz tunes out with her headphones. Mike loses a past-due project on media law somewhere in “cyberspace” and can’t find it, so tells his prof that the computer ate it.
We’re better than everyone else:The Pattersons clean up litter from a picnic area and John and Elly deliver a lecture about the difference between people who use and abuse things, then walk away, and those who respect the earth and look after it.
Be thankful for what you have: John explains to April that Boxing Day used to be about people in England boxing up leftover food and gifts and distributing them too the poor, but they now do that before Christmas and Boxing Day is for shopping in the sales. (A sign says “Boxing Day BARGOONS”. What *is* that word?)
Puns: Brian says of Gord’s wedding that “it’s like looking into the future and seeing your whole wife ahead of you!” as Lawrence and Mike laugh with sticky-outy tongues and Rhetta looks at Mike with an unreadable expression. April talks about learning about the letter B in pre-kindergarten and asks if a sign has two B’s as Elly quips, “Two B’s or not two B’s, that is the question” and laughs with her tongue out. Several other examples, but I really couldn’t be bothered.
Speaking Foobian: Weed uses the slang word “bone” for the first time. Gord’s hick accent is getting more frequent: “Everybody’s got somethin’ chewin’ at ‘em!”
Patterstreaking: April and Becky strip bare in the pre-kindergarten cloakroom while exchanging clothing.
John is a boor:John and Elly stop at a convenience store and John spies the men’s magazines and peruses one called Steamy as Elly looks gobsmacked and then annoyed. He complains about the bad gums on many of the girls and says that it really makes him wonder as Elly says wryly, “Yes. It does” with an expression that says she’s not buying his excuse.
Miscellaneous: Teenagers are moody and yell at their parents a lot. Liz hates her hair. Elly frets about her appearance and her age. The night before the family trip, Elizabeth still hasn’t packed her bags, so Elly freaks out and then does it for her. Elly criticizes John’s white socks in winter time and makes him change.
Rhetta describes Mike’s clean-shaven appearance as “the face I fell in love with”, just as Liz will say the same thing about Anthony once the Pornstache is gone.