When I was a kid I loved the funny papers and comic books. One of my favorites was Nancy and Sluggo. I know – from a very long time ago. The two of them were best buds. Always having grand adventures and pulling stunts on each other. Similar to how my sisters and brothers and I got along. I wax nostalgic whenever I think of Nancy and her pal Sluggo. I was someone who would have jumped right into the cartoon frames to live in the world created by Guy Gilcrest.
Coming forward many decades and some of that same feeling was roused a few nights ago when I decided to re-watch “Cranford” set in nineteenth century Britain. The opening credits are rolled out against an artist’s rendering of what the village of Cranford and its surrounding countryside might have looked like. Again, I thought of how lovely it would be to jump into that space and live the idyllic life. The sheep pastures, the flys (a kind of carriage not the insects), lace collars, bright bonnets, quaint haberdasheries and all the marvelous and quirky characters with which Elizabeth Gaskell peopled her village.
But, as comfortable as it is to inhabit those spaces, reality has a way of popping up out of the floorboards and smacking you one. Like when Nancy and Sluggo get into a name calling contest. “You’re dumb!” “No, you’re dumb!” In the last frame that’s the only word either of them is shouting. Dumb, Dumb, Dumb. As a kid this cracked me up. It was a very real scenario in our household of nine children and there was some pleasure in seeing that two of my favorite comic book characters knew about real life.
In the second episode of Cranford things were not so amusing. A small child is stricken with the croup and does not survive. He lies dead in his sister’s arms and the family is devastated. The new doctor in town was unable to save him and is stunned. In the same episode, across town, Deborah dies of a stroke leaving her sister, Miss Mattie, alone. It was a fate all too common then. These two old spinsters had been life itself to each other and it brought to mind the very real possibility that I may outlive one of my own sisters. Quite sobering.
Sometimes I hate reality. Fights. Family feuds. Loss of friends, funds and function. In the dark times It takes some doing to remember that reality doesn’t always mean the dreadful things. Reality is a complete package and until the dreadful outweighs the delightful we have a reason to smile. Jumping into the comfortable frames – whatever they are - every once in a while helps us to cope and makes us better. It’s a great place to go when you need it. I have mine. What are yours?