Running Free

Running Free

Monday, January 12, 2009

Charlie Brown and Me

There is a generation of children growing up without the knowledge of the Charlie Brown tree. I am not sure why this struck me as a bit sad really. Perhaps because all of my peers and those of us of a certain age know immediately what is meant by the phrase “Charlie Brown Christmas tree.” Perhaps it is the comfort derived from the known. The familiar. The familiarity with having been a Charlie Brown tree at one point or another in my life.

I realized this the other day when my son asked me why a particular neighborhood tree looked so scrawny. “Well,” said I. “He (for some reason I have always taken to giving masculine qualities to my trees) is probably an offspring of the Charlie Brown tree.”

“What is a Charlie Brown tree?” my son asked.

“What do you mean what is a Charlie Brown tree?” I responded in a rather perplexed voice.

“Mom, the tree is skinny and could use a few more branches and leaves but what does that have to do with Charlie Brown? Who is Charlie Brown?”

We were in the car (it seems I am often in the car for these lovely conversations –some of which have really been doozies of late- more on that in tomorrow’s blog so stay tuned…)

“Well, let me start by saying that when I was a girl…”

“I know mom, a hundred years ago…” my ever so jovial son reminded me.
“No actually, it was less than that,” I said as my brow furrowed and I tried to avoid a squirrel racing across the road.

“Better pick up the speed there Charlie,” I said not realizing what I had just muttered to the furry rodent with the electric shock tail and overstuffed cheeks.

“Mom, what is a Charlie Brown tree and who is Charlie Brown?” my son looked over at me with his chocolate kiss eyes that required an answer. Then and now.

“Well,” I began. Thoughts of the sprigs of hair sticking up from the top of Charlie Brown’s round head and his scratchy somber voice came back up from the cellar and into the wobbly corridors of my present mind.

“Charlie Brown is the main character in the comic strip Peanuts by Charles M. Schulz. And from the time I was 8 or so; I read the comic strip every Saturday. He also was made into a television character and each season had its associated disaster, like the pumpkin…”

“Um, Mom, could you just tell me what a Charlie Brown tree is?” said the non scratchy voice of the wheat-colored mop of hair next to me.

“Oh, sorry, dear,” said I.

“In a nutshell, Charlie Brown was the unpopular, always last to be called little boy who had really bad luck,” I stated as I made my way down the street and around the corner keeping an eye out for wayward squirrels.
“Sounds like you a little bit Mom- at least the part about bad luck,” said my son now munching a granola bar with the crumbs making a delightful pattern on his shirt and knees. Granola crumbs are a royal pain to clean up….
“Mm hmm,” I mumbled nodding my head slowly.

“Now a Charlie Brown tree is the smallest, skinniest, most naked tree you can think of- and that is usually all that was left by the time Charlie Brown went looking for his tree at Christmas.”
“Sounds like maybe Charlie Brown was a wait until the last minute kinda dude,” said my ever ready ten year old.
“Well, I guess maybe you could say that,” I said, “But really the truth of the matter is that he just had unfortunate luck, but he learned to accept his not so good luck and tried to make the best of it.”

“He sounds kind of pathetic Mom,” my dear son stated.

“Well, maybe he was but somehow I always felt sorry for him and somehow I always related to him and the inability to have too many good things happen and well, it’s kind of hard to explain really,” I mused out loud.

I felt a soft warm hand on my arm, complete with a few granola scraps. “Mom,” said my son looking at me, “You are nothing like Charlie Brown because you have me and Dad who love you and you have lots of friends and are so creative and funny.”

“Oh, honey, thank you. That is so kind of you. It makes my day.”I barely got the words out when my son added, “Plus, you always look for the tree or pumpkins with the most character, and now I will know what you mean when you say character- it is code for Charlie Brown-type.” He winked and gave me his crooked Cheshire cat grin.
I grinned back and drove on.

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