September Stories

Lately, I’ve been drawn to older comic strips, like Peanuts and Calvin and Hobbes. Very often, the creators would use these children’s characters to communicate grown-up themes -the concept that children’s lives have just as much depth and nuance as adults’, they just don’t know what to do with it yet.

My parents are always surprised when I remember things that they don’t expect me to. (Like the time they yelled at me to get down from the model stagecoach at K.Bob’s Steakhouse. A minor incident that happened around 1980, but one that I have strangely hung on to. Probably because my dad was involved, and he wasn’t a big yell-er. I guess they just didn’t want to have to buy a broken model stagecoach. Anyway.)

But children aren’t blank slates on which experiences are written on and erased. Their dramas are real, too, and important. I appreciate how Bill Watterson and Charles M. Schultz captured this in their portrayals of young people.

“I wish I had more friends, but people are such jerks. If you can just get most people to leave you alone, you're doing good. If you can find even one person you really like, you're lucky. And if that person can also stand you, you're really lucky.”
― Bill Watterson, Calvin and Hobbes

September makes me think of back to school and making new friends. It’s hard as an adult, but it’s hard as a young person, too. Schultz and Watterson know that not everyone plays nicely together and sometimes a person’s best friend truly is their stuffed animal.

A playground scuffle might seem minor, or even funny to an adult, but to a child it is very real. It matters when someone says a mean thing. It matters when alliances shift and you’re not sure what side to take. As these things happen, children are exploring and building their personal ethical frameworks. Despite parents, church and other external guidance, you can’t truly decide for yourself what you think is right or wrong until you’re faced with those choices directly. And, that’s no small thing when it happens. These incidents blow over, sure, but I also believe that how we handle and guide interpersonal relationships as and for young people sets a pattern. It sets up the boundaries of what behavior they will and won’t accept, behaviors that they will and won’t participate in. Those wheels start turning, on some level, at a very young age. I don’t think that Charles M. Schultz and Bill Watterson were being precocious with their characters - I think they got it exactly right.

I write a lot about my friendships, but I honestly don’t have a lot of close friends. And that is just fine. To quote my friend Amy “I’m an introvert and society doesn’t like me.” (And, sometimes the feeling is mutual.) I joke to my husband that most of my best friends came into my life before I was 18. One or two more trickled through between 20 and 30. I don’t need a lot of close friends, because the ones I have are so great. More importantly, they are examples of what good friends are to each other. So, the bar was set pretty high, pretty early on.

In my recent Pine Curtain Story, I wrote about the first friend I ever made outside of my community “bubble.” My home community was pretty risk averse, and there was a lot about my pre-teen and teenage years that my family wasn’t equipped to help me with in terms of peer relationships. So I had to choose to take those interpersonal risks, to reach out to others, to decide who I wanted in my life and how to be a good friend in return. Thankfully, in a scary and overwhelming time, this is something that I got right.


Art Stuff:

Taking advantage of the quiet time of the summer, I learned some more printmaking techniques.

I also did a custom piece for a good friend:


Life Stuff:

Our old lady cat was recently diagnosed with bone cancer, so we are putting a hold on long distance travel for a while. We are going on a trip to DC in a couple of days (James is already there for work, and I had bought my ticket to join him before Molly’s diagnosis). Aside from that, we will be at home or close to it for the next few months as Molly’s health declines. She’s an only cat, and I hate to think of her being alone and unwell, even though we do have a great cat sitter.

But adventures and great art can be found anywhere, and our travels closer to home prove it.

The Tyler Museum of Art has a great book-themed exhibition going on, among other things:

We went to Austin to see Jeffrey Gibson’s “This is the Day” exhibition at The Blanton Museum of Art. He is probably my favorite artist discovery of the year. He had a piece in the Whitney Biennial and I knew I wanted to see more and more of his work. Luckily, it came to Austin this summer:

We also saw great art in smaller towns, like Edom, Round Top, Corsicana and Brenham.


Other Stuff:

I’ve read a few things recently that I’d recommend: Working, by Robert Caro; Lot: Stories by Bryan Washington and American Predator by Maureen Callahan. Yes, I know one of these things is not like the others, but sometimes I just really love a good true crime story.

With that in mind, I also blazed through both seasons of Mindhunter on Netflix. It’s such a good show, and incredibly unnerving for something that doesn’t have a ton of explicit violence or jump scares.

Succession has also been great this season (and here’s a great New Yorker article about its costuming), and HBO’s new dark comedy, The Righteous Gemstones is a new favorite.


Music:

I’ve been on a classic country kick and am loving the new Ken Burns Country Music documentary on PBS. Some people have bad things to say about country music, and I definitely prefer the older stuff over the newer, more slick releases. But it’s the music I grew up with and sometimes even the cheesiest stuff can move me to tears. And, for good or for bad, it’s a rare Pine Curtain person who can’t “Bop” from muscle memory when those notes start to play!


As always, thank you for caring about the goings-on in my world! If you have a question or comment, feel free to respond to this email and start a conversation.

Stephanie

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