Summer with Charles M. Schulz and the Peanuts Gang

Summer with Charles
By Walter Ang
April 20, 2000
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Whenever Holy Week comes along, I always remember the one Holy Week when I got the measles. I was in elementary school when I caught the disease. I had to stay indoors for what seemed like an agonizing eternity. I was ready to climb the walls and bang my head with a shoe.

Thank goodness I had Snoopy and the Peanuts gang to keep me company. Without them, I might have gone absolutely bonkers.

One of my earliest encounters with Snoopy when I received two beautiful hard bound books from my aunt who lived in California. The books were huge and thick and smelled of "America."

One was a compilation of Charlie Brown's (mis)adventures in his favorite sport baseball, aptly entitled "Sandlot." The other was an anniversary book chronicling the history and highlights of Snoopy's long and illustrious career in newspaper comic strips, books, television, movies, and even Broadway.

The gang
I loved those two books to death. I spent those horrible measles- filled days getting to know this quirky, interesting group of friends again and again, never tiring of their antics. Led by Charlie Brown with his passion for baseball and unending attempts to fly his kite without it getting tangled in the trees. Snoopy, probably the world's most versatile dog, with alter egos that ranged from a World War II fighter plane pilot to the esoteric Easter Beagle.

Charlie Brown's sister Sally and her constant pursuit of Linus. Linus and his wisdom (including a belief in The Great Pumpkin) served up all wrapped in a security blanket. Linus' sister, the uber taray Lucy van Pelt and how, instead of selling lemonade, she would dispense psychiatric advice at only 5¢ per session. Of course, how could anyone not feel for Schroeder, the Beethoven playing piano prodigy, as he tried to run away from the incessant clutches of Lucy?

In the book "Sandlot," one particular adventure of the group that made me laugh out loud the most involved Peppermint Patty, Charlie Brown's friend and baseball rival. She'd decided to join an ice skating competition and her travails included hiring Snoopy as her skating coach, getting her best friend Marcie to be her costume designer (the costume turned out to have no holes for her arms to go though), and receiving a gigantic afro wig after many failed and extremely hilarious attempts at a hair make over.

This particular escapade ends with Peppermint Patty donning her ice skates at the contest venue, only to discover that the contest was for roller skating.

Sad news
Earlier this year, I was channel surfing and came across the news that Charles M. Schulz, the creator of world famous Snoopy and the Peanuts gang, had passed away. You should've seen me, I was in such a state.

Through the years, I've always enjoyed the company of the Peanuts gang. I've seen almost all of their movies. I've screamed in delight whenever I found bargain prices to Snoopy books. I was in seventh heaven when I chanced upon what I consider to be one of my most treasured finds: a yellow shirt with black zigzag lines exactly like the one that Charlie Brown wears.

A few years ago, I had an opportunity to make full use of that shirt when I performed a monologue from the Tony Award winning Broadway musical "You're A Good Man Charlie Brown." When I stepped onto the stage with that shirt on, I was able to share with the audience Chuck's eternal pining for the "cute little redheaded girl" and how he finally reacted one day when she was looking at him from across the schoolyard. He promptly put a brown paper bag over his head.

This kind of humor is what best defines the Peanuts world. This motley crew of characters go through many struggles, not always with good results but nevertheless always in the right spirit, always providing a good laugh and an inspiration for the rest of us.

With Charles M. Schulz gone, the world loses a great person who's touched the lives of countless people. He was able to paint us a world with a round headed kid and his pet beagle, but more than that, he created something magical in those little boxes that we see every morning in the newspapers. These little windows that show us the lives of the Peanuts gang also show us reflections of ourselves in them. When we laugh at and with the gang, aren't we ultimately laughing at ourselves also? Charles M. Schulz will be sorely missed. The joy that he dispenses through his creations is definitely worth more than 5¢, it's priceless.