I thought it was time for another wall of text...
Lynn explains on the back cover that this collection was to be titled Never Take Advice from a Guy who Crushes Beer Cans with his Head, featuring a panel of Weed doing just that as Mike looks on, but she felt that Weed didn’t represent the entire Patterson family as well as the eventual title, Growing Like a Weed, did, showing April getting taller, Elizabeth “more mature” [sic], Mike more independent and John and Elly growing older.
Recurring characters introduced:
- Blair, the hard-sell time-share representative at the resort in Mexico
- Becky’s parents (unnamed), seen while April is staying with Becky for two weeks
- Jodi and Kit, the girls who share the kitchen with Mike and Weed, are seen briefly at the end of one school year, and then never again, not even when Mike and Weed return after the summer
- Kenny, one of the truck drivers who helps rescue Deanna
- Mel and Colleen Smith, and their two-month-old daughter, Tabitha Jayne, introduced only so John can make a horrible pun about “Come to me my Mel and Colleen’s baby”
- Vanessa, a little girl in a grocery store, and her mother. In a rather touching strip, John spots her putting fruit in her little cart and asks her her name, saying that he has a little girl at home about the same age, but Vanessa’s mother swoops in and whisks the child away, warning her not to talk to the man because they don’t know who he is. At home later, John hugs April and says that he knows she was just protecting her child, but sometimes he hates the world they live in (although I can't help but wonder what the strip would be like if it had been a strange man approaching April when Elly wasn't looking).
- three guys at the beach who spend the day with Dawn and Liz
- Daphne, the horse Liz looks after and learns to ride in Manitoba
hicksresidents in Aberdeen, Manitoba: Herb Snelgroot, Booger Harris, Fred and Parky Parkinson
- April’s classmates Stuart Gorman, Danica (who has a horse), Nathan, Janet and James
- Melba, a miscellaneous friend of Elly’s never seen before or since
- Willard Flatt, some classmate of Liz’s who got arrested over the summer for mooning a police car on highway 427
- Pamela, an acquaintance of Elly’s and Connie’s who boasts of getting all her Christmas shopping done back in October
- Elly doesn’t wear silver jewellery
- Edgar got “amorous with the ladies” while at the kennel
- April turns five and has a birthday party with her parents, Becky, and a couple of other friends, one of whom might be a larval-Duncan and the other looks like Mike’s childhood friend Darryl Smythe. She still speaks in baby talk: “anyfing”, “den”, “gived”, “huggy”, “Livabeff”, “birfday”…
- John’s first car was a ’57 Chevy
- Lawrence checks out the Pattersons’ garden and spends several days planting shrubs – it isn’t clear if he is paid for this or if it was a freebie for the family
- Aberdeen, Manitoba has a chip stand called Runcie’s (which has caught fire more than once)
- Dawn and Shawna-Marie work at the Ice Cream Circus over the summer
- Mike has to hire a boat from Rupe’s Rentals (“Hour, Day, Week”) to get Edgar back from a diving platform in the middle of a lake when the dog refuses to swim back to shore
- April starts kindergarten: the best thing is that “they gots a hot lunch”
- Candace gives her full name as Candace Jesse Halloran
- Candace shaves her head, Shawna-Marie gets her nose pierced and a flower tattooed on her ankle, Duane gets a tattoo, Dawn gets her grade 10 in piano, Nandini gets dreadlocks and Anthony becomes president of the “Aliens” space club
- Shawna-Marie’s brother has, and races, a stock car
- Becky gives April her turtles and “the Scotts” give April a fish; April also brings home a snake
- Mike and Deanna went to a bar where everyone danced in soapsuds
- Weed almost broke the college record for “the weenie run”, where you put a wiener in each nostril and see how far you can run
- John puts a hole in the laundry room wall so he can run a train track around the ceiling, with an aim towards doing this around all the rooms in the house
- Brian spends the Christmas holidays visiting relatives in Japan
- Allyson Creemore has married someone she’d known for only three months
- Brad Luggsworth joins the Air Force
- Rhetta finishes her business course and goes to work for her dad
Elly and John are off again, this time for a few days in Mexico. Elly explains to a curious April that sometimes it’s nice for a husband and wife to be together on their own from time to time. April points out that her parents went away very recently and Elly says that their last trip was over nine months ago. Mike goes skiing with Weed, April stays at Becky’s, Liz at Dawn’s and Edgar at Kit’s Kozy Kennels. In a reversal of the usual beach stories, Elly is the one checking out the pretty girls and John puts his arm around Elly and says that he’s with one of the pretty ones. Elly suggests that they learn to speak some of the language and John learns the Spanish word for beer, explaining that he has to start somewhere. The Pattersons are invited to a free lunch put on by the hotel only to discover that it’s to introduce them to the hotel’s time-share program. They are asked to make a $30,000 commitment in ten minutes, but when they decline, the salesman vanishes without letting them complete their sentence.
Elly and Connie continue jogging twice a week and gossiping over coffee, and Elly still complains about her inability to shift any weight off her thighs. Connie announces that Lawrence has decided to become a landscape artist and Elly says that Mike will be a writer for sure. At university, Mike and Weed have finished their exams and Weed borrows his dad’s camera to take photos of their campus so they can look back one day and remember the emotional outpouring they went through. Weed is tired but insists upon driving even though Mike offers to take over. Suddenly they see a car ahead of them flip over on its side into the ditch. Other drivers are on the scene first, saying that the driver is still alive and asking if anyone has a blanket. Weed goes to retrieve the sleeping bags from the back of his car while Mike talks about how lucky they are and brandishes Weed’s father’s camera. Weed races down with the sleeping bags and asks what he can do to help; Mike tells him to get out of the way so he can take a clear shot. He then hands the camera over to Weed and gets out his notebook to make notes. Weed’s initial attempts to help evaporate as he gets caught up in Mike’s enthusiasm and he starts suggesting things they need to record so they can report on it. A crowd forms as more and more people come to see what is happening and the ambulance struggles to get through, but eventually the girl is rescued. The ambulance driver tells Kenny, the truck driver, that he saved the girl’s life. Mike asks Weed if he got a statement from the truck driver for their article, but Weed says that Kenny just sat down and cried. Mike and Weed head straight to a 24-hour photo place to get the pictures developed to see if they can be published in the next day’s newspaper and Weed complains about the crowd who stopped to gawk at the accident, but Mike says that that’s what makes it news. Mike brushes past Elly upon his return home and heads straight to the computer to write up his story.
The story does make the front page of the local paper, The Valley Voice, but is edited considerably and Elly stops Mike from complaining when she points out that he knew the victim: Deanna Sobinski. (It isn’t explained how this is apparently Mike’s article, yet Elly reads out several sentences from it which describe details of which Mike appears to be completely unaware. Also left unexplained is why Mike claimed to have discovered journalistic integrity two years ago when he didn’t publish his story about the life and experiences of Mr Bergner, the college janitor, yet abandoned said integrity at the very first opportunity.) Mike feels guilty immediately and explains to Liz that he had a crush on Deanna when they were kids, but that Deanna had moved away and they lost touch.
Mike goes to visit Deanna at the hospital to apologize for taking pictures, meeting her mother in the corridor. Mrs Sobinski is grateful that someone who knew Deanna was with her during the accident and hugs Mike, taking him into Deanna’s hospital room. Deanna is sedated still, with a fractured shoulder, broken nose and punctured lung, so a reunion will have to wait, but Mrs Sobinski, with her arm around Mike, tells him that it’s a miracle that Deanna is alive and miracles should be shared. Mike tells Weed that next time they’ll have some compassion when they report an accident.
Mike returns once Deanna is awake and they talk. She explains how she fell asleep at the wheel after spending too many late nights studying for her pharmacy exams. With the sun in her eyes as she drove home, she became tired and began to dream that she was driving. The wheels hit the shoulder and she opened her eyes and saw the barrier at the roadside, then stepped on the gas pedal by accident – she doesn’t remember anything else. Mike remembers that he and Deanna last spoke in Grade 4 and then her family moved to Burlington; Deanna teases him about having had a crush on her. When they discover that they’ll both be attending the University of Western Ontario in the autumn, Mike asks her if she thinks that the accident was fate: she says that it was stupidity. They exchange addresses and Mike goes home in a state of bliss only for Liz to bring him back down to earth with a message that Rhetta called.
Mike hesitates for a few panels before calling Rhetta and discovers that she wants to meet so they can talk. He flips out about how he’s just met someone else and now his ex wants back into his life, and Liz sensibly points out that maybe Rhetta just wants to say hi and maybe Deanna already has a boyfriend: maybe neither of them want to be with him. Mike somehow manages to tie Liz’s turtleneck sweater over her head, tying the arms together and also tying her socks together.
As it turns out, however, both girls *do* want to be with Mike in their own way, although Deanna takes longer to acknowledge this. Rhetta speaks first, saying that she never stopped caring about Mike and admitting that the guy she dumped Mike for has now dumped her, so she’d like to get back together now that she’s had the opportunity to see how much better their relationship was. Mike can’t make up his mind, so Elly tells him to follow his heart and Mike winds up at a pizza restaurant with Weed. Ahem. Weed advises Mike to date them both and see how it goes, then crushes a beer can against his forehead (see above where the rejected title for this collection was mentioned). Mike decides that
, having let his heart lead him to Weed, it’s time to see where the car will take him and finds that it drives him to Deanna’s. He asks her out and discovers that she’s engaged.
Elly continues to suffer with the side effects of menopause and she and Connie celebrate (over coffee, naturally) that they have known each other for over 30 years, from mini-dress to menopause. Moira discovers that Elly’s symptoms are called peri-menopause, then says that it’s a major scientific advance if a woman’s symptoms are given a name because it means that scientists (presumably all males) believe that the condition exists. Elly also learns that her eyesight is getting worse and has to buy glasses; Liz, who knows a thing or two about adjusting to wearing glasses, goes with her and encourages her to buy the ones which look best even if they are expensive.
Several weeks after returning to Milborough, Mike drops by to see Gord and Tracey and tells them that he’s back with Rhetta now. Gord and Tracey are putting in two more pumps, including diesel, a canopy and a kiosk. Business is steady, but they never get any time off. Gord can’t find someone he trusts and can rely on, someone who cares: someone like him. Lawrence suggests that he, Mike, Brian and Ben could take turns running the gas station to give Gord and Tracey a long weekend as a belated wedding present. John tells Gord that the Pattersons didn’t invest in the service station: they invested in Gord. This is the first time Mike has heard about his parents’ involvement and he asks John about it privately, wanting to know what if something happened and they didn’t get their money back (he doesn’t come right out and ask if there are inheritance implications). John describes himself as a partner in the business and says that he likes to take a gamble now and then and wouldn’t bet on a horse he didn’t think would win. Gord and Tracey head off for a few days at his aunt’s cottage in the Muskokas, where they foolishly leave their trash on the porch and attract the attention of a bear. They embrace and watch the sunset over the lake. When they return, they prepare to hire a couple of employees to make sure that the garage is run properly.
Mike finds that all he and Rhetta do now is argue, then make up. With Liz on her way to the farm for the summer, he bristles when Rhetta recalls that long-distance relationships don’t work, and accuses her of speaking about them and his plans to go to university in London.
Before leaving for Winnipeg, Liz and Dawn spend a Sunday at the beach where they meet three older guys – old enough to drive at least, and to buy (or have bought for them) beer. Liz downs a beer with enthusiasm while Dawn looks at hers suspiciously. They are driven home in a convertible and the driver kisses Liz goodbye, but when Elly asks what happened at the beach, Liz says, “Oh…nothing.” While on the farm, Liz learns to ride a horse, staggering around afterwards causing Uncle Danny to compare her to Herb Snelgroot after his vasectomy. She also gets to drive a truck back to the house from the north field, and dances for joy that she’s able to drive. Liz joins Bev, Danny and Laura at a farm auction and gets caught up in the excitement, buying a rabbit. She brings home the bunny in a carrier and April is enchanted with the new pet. John cautions that Elly will be upset, but acknowledges that the rabbit is awfully cute. April breaks the news to Elly first and begs to keep him. Mike suggests “Stew” as a name, but Liz procrastinates and finally hears April calling him Mr B. The name sticks. Liz isn’t particularly interested in looking after her rabbit and, when Elly tells her to take responsibility for her own pet, Liz offers him to an overjoyed April.
Weed collects Mike for the drive back to Mrs Dingle’s place. They’re not going to be on the same campus this year, but Mike is happy that at least they’ll be rooming together again. Mike tells Weed that Rhetta didn’t make it easy on him on their last night together and Weed suggests that Mike make Rhetta part of his past.
April, Duncan and Becky start kindergarten together, in a class of 24. April and Duncan are assigned to the same four-person group (identified by colours – theirs is blue) and April, in a heavy-handed punchline, says to Duncan that it’s cool that they’re both the same colour.
Liz has a bad hair day but it pales in comparison to Candace, who shaved her head. She tells Liz that she was tired of being “the girl with the perfect hair” and tired of being treated like a sex object (said while wearing fishnet stockings and a tight black dress). Dawn is now closer to Shawna-Marie than Liz after Liz spent the summer in Manitoba: they meditate and do yoga together and worked together at the hard ice cream counter for the whole month of August, getting “pipes”. Liz tries to convince herself that she’s too mature and independent to be jealous of their closeness, then flops over her bed, alone, totally bummed, but not jealous. Elly tells John to leave Liz alone for a little while because she’s depressed: “Again?” he asks, pointing out that she has a good home, nice room, good family, nice friends, a good school, sings in the choir, swims at the “Y”…Elly says that Liz doesn’t feel like she belongs anywhere. Liz heads for the mall to decide whether to get her nose or navel pierced. She runs into Miss Edwards who acts as her sounding board and tells Liz that they can be friends now that she’s no longer Liz’s teacher; Liz decides against piercing anything, happy that she now has everything she needs as her favourite teacher now wants to be her friend. Nonetheless, a few weeks, Liz dyes her hair “Golden Burgundy” – it comes out purple.
Weed’s skill with the camera is improving and he imagines himself being sent to places like Somalia, Bosnia “an’” Iran one day, but leaves the Bung and Wattle pub when a fight looks liable to begin. It isn’t long before Mike runs into Deanna on campus and she asks him if he remembers her – she later admits that it was a planned accident that she just happened to be in the student newspaper office at the same time he was. She also wants to know why he didn’t call her and he asks what he could have said to her after she told him that she was getting married. Deanna suggests that he could have said, “Wait”, explaining that, during her recovery, she began to admit that she wasn’t ready for marriage, so called off the wedding and returned the ring. Mike asks Deanna out for diner, lunch, anything, finally settling on a walk before her evening class. He boasts to Weed, who reminds him that he claimed to be a “one-woman man” and currently is dating Rhetta. Mike insists that this is just a platonic reunion between two old friends, but borrows Weed’s aftershave. Before he leaves, he decides to be honest with Rhetta and phones her, only to learn that she is out with another guy. After a successful walk around campus with Deanna, a lovesick Mike e-mails Rhetta to tell her that he knows about the other guy and says thanks to her, ostensibly for letting him pursue Deanna guilt-free.
John drops by Gord’s Garage to look over the books and finds that Gord is already breaking even after the expansion and hiring a new man. Tracey tells Elly that she’s about 3 months pregnant: the outcome of their time in the Muskokas. The parents-to-be are excited and terrified, but hope they’ll be ready by the due date of mid-April. Tracey points out that their apartment barely has room for the two of them, and Elly assures her that they’ll manage, after all, when Mike was born, she and John had to let him to sleep in a bureau drawer until they could afford a crib. Mike and Lawrence spend the New Year with Gord and Tracey at the apartment, where Gord has moved his “office” into the tiny attic to make room for the baby furniture his parents have bought. They catch up on former classmates, with Lawrence telling Gord that Allyson, his “old flame”, has married someone she knew for only three months. Mike reminded Gord that Allyson always wanted to get married and Tracey points out that she was always looking through bride books, which is a rather odd pastime for a high-school student, but anyway…Brian is going into computer animation, Brad Luggsworth has enlisted in the Air Force and Rhetta finished her business course and started working for her father. Lawrence asks Gord for advice on starting his own business, now that there’s room for another landscaper in the city, and after a few years away, he’s certain that he wants to stay in Milborough. The friends promise not to drift apart and Lawrence reminds them that “all roads lead to home”.
Recurring themes / This strip conserves punchlines
I don’t understand this modern technology stuff: Elly is frustrated by the computerized stock system at the bookstore and Moira says that she’ll not buy a computer until they’re made by Fisher-Price.
Teenagers are moody: Another back to school shopping expedition with Liz and Elly unable to agree on anything, so Elly finally just gives Liz some money and lets her do her own shopping. Liz returns home empty-handed, as it’s no fun shopping by herself.
Homesickness: Mike gets an e-mail from Liz full of all the Milborough news and feels homesick.
Puns: April says that Becky has “bump beds” because she always bumps her head on the top one.
Swearing bad: April overhears teens swearing and repeats the words despite knowing that she shouldn’t: she was just testing Elly. Elly tells her that such words are low-class and vulgar.
John can’t dress himself: Elly tries to get John to get rid of his favourite old sweater because it has a few holes in it, and let her buy him a new one. He says that he’s wearing it in his workshop where no one will see it, it’s warm, comfy and fits him. Liz compares it to a teddy bear.
Trust in fate: Mike wonders if Deanna’s accident was fate bringing them back together again. When he can’t decide between Deanna and Rhetta, he decides to see where the car goes (the Pattersons own a sentient car?) and winds up at Deanna’s.
Miscellaneous: As depicted when they went to Barbados, Elly and John are easily identified as new arrivals to their tropical resort because they don’t have suntans. Connie and Elly sit around complaining about their health and drinking coffee repeatedly, even though Elly insists that they aren’t going to be the sort of people who do exactly that.
And finally, one strip I just loved: April makes herself a peanut butter and honey sandwich and a moody Liz says sarcastically, “Thanks for making me one”. April dutifully makes a sandwich for Liz, who takes a bite and spits it out, shouting that it was peanut butter and onion. April replies that Liz never asked for the same kind of sandwich. Go April! I knew the babytalk was just a ruse to keep them from knowing how smart you really are!